Police receive wave of fresh fraud complaints against Gregory Lerner

The extradition of convicted embezzler Gregory Lerner (Zvi Ben-Ari) from South America last week has sparked a wave of new fraud accusations against him, police said Wednesday. "We are receiving a great many complaints from all over Israel about a number of things. We are checking them out. They are arriving all the time, especially since the [media] reports about a number of things he did to people," a police spokeswoman said. Local police stations were forwarding the complaints to the Serious and International Crimes Unit, she said. Since the investigation was ongoing, she declined to provide details about the complaints. Ben-Ari was arrested in Paraguay early last week, two weeks after he fled Israel following conviction for embezzlement, forgery and money laundering. His escape, capture and return attracted major media attention, which appears to have alerted dozens of people who gave money to him to invest. Although there is no extradition treaty between Israel and Paraguay, Lerner was handed over two days after his arrest and he arrived in Israel last Thursday. The Israel Police had an international arrest warrant issued for Ben-Ari and traced him to Asunci n, Paraguay. He was arrested there by local authorities in cooperation with the Israel Police's representative in Latin America. After landing in Israel, Ben-Ari was taken to the Serious and International Crimes Unit for questioning. In late February, Lerner was found guilty of defrauding two businessmen of $1.03 million and then laundering the money by depositing it in bank accounts that he controlled but which were registered in the names of his friends. Under a plea bargain agreement, Lerner pled guilty to the fraud charges in return for the state agreeing to drop charges of obstruction of justice. He also agreed to serve time in jail, although the parties left the length of his prison term to be decided at a hearing in May. The police spokeswoman declined to say whether or not the agreement had been cancelled.