Gregory Lerner sentenced to 6 years

With probation for previous convictions, Lerner will serve 18 years.

gergory lerner 298.88 (photo credit: Channel 10)
gergory lerner 298.88
(photo credit: Channel 10)
Gregory Lerner, also known as Zvi Ben-Ari, is going back to jail again after the Tel Aviv District Court sentenced him to six years in jail and NIS 884,000 in compensation and fines. The sentence came five months after the court convicted Lerner of violating the Criminal Code and the Money-Laundering Law. After pleading guilty to a revised indictment in the wake of a plea bargain agreement, Lerner asked for three months before sentencing to round up the money for the compensation and fine that the court was due to levy. Two weeks later, he escaped from Israel using a forged passport and reached Paraguay, which extradited him. According to the revised indictment following the plea bargain agreement, Lerner persuaded two businessmen, Semion Swalkin and Oscar Katznelson. to invest $950,000 in a fake deal to supply gasoline to the Dor Gas Company. He did so by establishing a series of fake companies and forging bank documents, protocols, contracts and bank checks to convince them that the deal was legitimate. Katzenelson paid another $75,000 to Lerner who promised to enable him to buy shares in one of his companies, Pacific Petrolium. The revised indictment also charged that Lerner established bank accounts in the names of other people even though they were in his full control. He then transferred the funds that he had fraudulently obtained to his own accounts or withdrew and spent the money. A total of $1.2 million was deposited in these accounts from sources outside of Israel. After convicting him, Judge Zvi Gorfunkel agreed to have Lerner examined by a psychiatrist. Dr. Ilya Resnik, who was hired by the defendant, found that Lerner was manic-depression (bi-polar disturbance) and was also addicted to alcohol and drugs. He said that Lerner had been sick during the episode of the fraud and the escape and did not know what he was doing. Dr. Alish Ya'acov, who was appointed by the district psychiatrist, found that Lerner was not mentally ill but was addicted to alcohol which created mood swings. Gorfunkel preferred Ya'acov's diagnosis on the grounds that Lerner had planned the swindle and the escape carefully and was obviously aware of what he was doing to carry out these complex plans. Lerner has already served eight years in prison in Israel after being convicted of fraud and tax law violations. He is also currently under investigation on suspicion that he defrauded dozens of elderly people in the Ashdod and Lachish regions.