Israeli JCC hoax bomber sentenced to 10 years in jail

US may still seek to have autistic teenager extradited for trial in the States.

JCC bomb threats suspect (photo credit: REUTERS)
JCC bomb threats suspect
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Tel Aviv District Court sentenced the Jewish Community Center hoax bomber from Ashkelon to 10 years in jail on Thursday, following his conviction in June.
The defendant’s name is under gag order, since he was a minor when he committed these crimes. He was indicted in the Tel Aviv District Court in April 2017, and tried to get out of a jail sentence by arguing that he was autistic.
The indictment was for a series of more than 2,000 bomb threats and other actions against Jewish institutions, as well as airports and police stations in the US and other countries.
The defendant’s family has said that they will appeal the sentence to the Supreme Court.
The Jerusalem Post reported in February that the US had backed away from seeking the teen hacker’s extradition, but that it might seek to have him extradited and tried in the US, following his trial in Israel.
Thursday’s sentence could restart negotiations over that issue.
According to the indictment, the defendant tried to blackmail Republican Senator Ernesto Lopez of Delaware, who spoke out against the bomb threats, even going so far as to send illegal drugs to Lopez’s house in order get him in trouble with authorities.
The teenager also tried to blackmail and threaten former top US Defense Department official George Little, saying he would kidnap and kill his children, and issued a fake threat against the Israeli Embassy in Washington.
He threatened a flight carrying the Boston Celtics, saying that there was a bomb onboard. The flight was temporarily halted and the plane was checked. In another case, a flight in Europe had to be accompanied by the French Air Force after a bomb threat.
Numerous other flights – as well as preschools, malls and other institutions – were evacuated due to his fake threats.
The case is one of the most bizarre in history. An entire narrative about increasing antisemitism in the US was overturned – since an American-Israeli oleh (immigrant) was at the center of the mass anti-Jewish hysteria.
The family of the Ashkelon teen-defendant has appeared to confess and tried to defend his actions by claiming physical and mental incompetence due to illness.
“The purpose of the defendant was to cause substantial public panic; greatly increased presence of emergency guards at the threatened sites; panicked evacuations of the sites; searches and sweeps of the sites; and to grab media attention which would maximize the overall harm of his actions,” said the Justice Ministry.
The actual charges include extortion through threats, publicizing fake news, causing fear and confusion, cybercrimes and money laundering, all carried out over a two-year period.
He was also charged with illegal possession of a weapon, attacking a police officer, engaging in selling drugs and possessing pedophile-type materials among other crimes.
The Justice Ministry said the defendant also used the “Dark Net” to sell his cyber intimidation and extortion services to clients who paid him with electronic currency, setting fees for calls to police stations, schools or airports.
The defendant was also accused of using the undetectable web network to deal in illegal drugs, sell computer kits in order to counterfeit official documents, manufacture poisons and explosives, and hack into social media accounts.
His business landed him roughly $225,000 in Bitcoin currency. At one point he employed two other individuals to operate as subcontractors, who helped him carry out these tasks.
Child pornography was also found on his computer.
The teen made at least 245 threatening telephone calls between January 4 and March 7, 2017, many targeting Jewish community centers in the US, according to the separate indictments filed in Florida that year.
He also appears to be linked to more than 240 hoax threats where he called schools in the US and Canada with faux bomb threats, between August and December 2015. This forced thousands of students to be evacuated from the perimeters. His defense lawyer in Israel told reporters that he has a high IQ but the emotional intelligence of a 5-year-old.
The waves of threats against Jewish groups forced widespread evacuations and prompted concern among Jewish leaders about a resurgence of antisemitism. Many Jewish community centers took steps to heighten security in response.
While Judge Zvi Gurfinkel acknowledged the defendant’s autism, he ruled that the teen was nevertheless responsible for his actions and understood the difference between right and wrong.
The sentence also included a fine of NIS 60,000 for refusing to reveal his Bitcoin password so that NIS 4,000,000 that he profited from his activities could be seized.
Last month, the prosecution filed new charges against the teen hacker with the Tel Aviv District Court, alleging three additional hoax threats from prison and attempts to escape police custody.
Meanwhile, the defendant’s father wrote a message to US President Donald Trump on Thursday claiming that Israel erred in sentencing his son.
“I have message to President Donald Trump,” the handwritten note published by Ynet reads. “This was an almost perfect ‘Black Operation’ against you and the Jewish people around the world by your ally.”
The note’s meaning was ambiguous, but may have referred to an extradition flip-flop by US authorities, who originally asked for the US-Israeli dual citizen to be extradited and stand trial in front of a US court, but backed down after the request was rejected by Israel’s Justice Ministry.
Uri Bollag contributed to this report.