French olim accused of fraud network

False company extorted thousands of Euros from small French businesses, police suspect.

police car 248.88 (photo credit: Channel 10 )
police car 248.88
(photo credit: Channel 10 )
A massive criminal enterprise made up of French immigrants to Israel was the target of a year-long undercover police investigation, resulting on Monday in the arrest of 10 suspects and the detention of an additional 20. According to suspicions, members of the hierarchical criminal organization targeted hundreds of French owners of small businesses via a fictitious French company in Ashdod. Fluent French speakers would place calls to the businesspeople and tempt them to place an ad free of charge on the internet or to update their details in the local French yellow pages. The businesspeople were asked to sign a contract as part of the agreement, and after several months faced demands to pay hundreds of thousands of Euros for "the service." The undercover investigation, which began after the police was tipped off by French law enforcement agencies, was led by the National Unit for the Investigation of Serious and International Crimes and the Lahav 433 anti-organized crime unit. The suspects have been charged with fraud, forgery under aggravated circumstances, embezzlement and a host of other charges. "All of the phone conversations and fax communications were carried out from Israel in French through a special switchboard in order to create the false impression among victims that the call was being made by a local French company," police said in a statement. Police say the criminal organization ran "like a well-oiled machine under a hierarchical pattern and through the use of advanced technologies in order to sting hundreds of French residents between 2005 and 2008," adding that millions of Euros were embezzled in this fashion. Police ended the undercover investigation on Monday, arresting and detaining 30 suspects and searching a number of homes and offices. A number of currency exchange outlets were also searched, police said. Several more suspects would be interrogated during the course of the ongoing investigation in the near future, police added.