Lerner to head back to jail after plea bargain

Businessman admits to charges of money laundering, fraud, forgery.

lerner 88 (photo credit: )
lerner 88
(photo credit: )
Gregory Lerner, who has already served six years in prison for fraud, reached a plea bargain agreement with the state on Sunday whereby he will go to jail again, this time for embezzlement, forgery and money laundering. On the basis of Lerner's confession, he was convicted of cheating two businessmen out of $1.025 million and then laundering the money by depositing it in bank accounts he controlled, which were registered in his friends' names. According to the plea bargain, the state agreed to drop the charges of obstruction of justice against him. Lerner and the state agreed that the sentence would include jail time, but did not settle on how long a prison term he would receive. For the arrangement to be implemented, Lerner must first hand over money he has deposited in several different bank accounts, as well as thousands of shekels in cash, most of which was seized in his office. The court agreed to hold the next hearing in May to give him time to come up with the money. According to the indictment, Lerner fabricated a contract between the Pacific Petroleum Company, which he owns, and a well-known Swiss company, Petroval SA, which was the main trader and marketer for the Russian fuel company Yukos. Using the fake contract, Lerner persuaded the two businessmen, Semion Swalkin and Oscar Katznelson, to invest $950,000 in the deal. He also received $75,000 from Katznelson in return for a false promise that he would raise $5 million for the businessman, who wanted to purchase a share of Lerner's Pacific Petroleum Company. Lerner, 54, immigrated to Israel in 1990. He was arrested in 1997 on suspicion of having been sent to Israel by the Russian mafia to launder their money. He was also suspected of commissioning several murders. The following year, he was sentenced to six years in jail for committing acts of fraud against Russian banks. Soon after his arrival in Israel, Russian authorities sent the Israel Police information and evidence regarding Lerner's criminal activities. Five Russian mob chiefs were suspected of having immigrated to Israel during the massive wave of immigration from the former Soviet Union starting in 1989, a senior police officer told The Jerusalem Post. Lerner was believed to be the most dangerous of them, he said.