City employees indicted for alleged crime ring

9 charged in connection with criminal organization that operated gambling dens in Ashdod, Beit Shemesh.

arrest  311 R (photo credit: REUTERS/Eric Gaillard )
arrest 311 R
(photo credit: REUTERS/Eric Gaillard )
The Southern District Attorney filed an indictment in the Beersheba District Court on Tuesday, charging nine Ashdod residents in connection with an organized crime ring in the city.
Armond Meira allegedly founded, managed and directed the criminal organization, which operated a network of gambling dens in Ashdod and Beit Shemesh, netting them tens of millions of shekels over several years.
According to the indictment, the gang’s goal was to control all illegal gambling operations in Ashdod, and its members were fully prepared to use violence to achieve their aims.
The gang also extorted local business owners and engaged in money laundering and tax fraud, the indictment said.
Allegedly, Meira developed the gang’s money laundering activities in order to cover up its illegal income, and he was the one who sanctioned the use of violence against the gang’s enemies and debtors.
Meira is charged with several different counts under the Organized Crime Act, including leading a criminal organization, conspiracy to commit a crime, extortion, possessing premises for illegal gambling operations, money laundering and receiving a thing by receipt, all in connection with a criminal organization.
Allegedly, the crime ring also took control of providing services to bathers on Ashdod’s beaches, with the help of a senior Ashdod municipal employee, Meir Ben-Guzi. Ben-Guzi is alleged to have been on the gang’s payroll, abusing his position and power to promote the gang’s criminal activities in the city.
Meira used his connections to Ben-Guzi to ensure control of the city’s beaches would remain under his gang, and that the municipality would not hinder their operations.
The chairman of Ashdod’s municipal workers’ committee, and director of the city’s beaches, Ben-Guzi is charged under the Organized Crime Law with conspiracy to commit a crime under the auspices of a criminal organization; abusing his position as a public worker to aid a criminal organization; and fraud and breach of trust.
According to one of the charges, while Meira was serving a prison sentence for another offense, Ben-Guzi used his position to help Meira’s family members, including his then-wife Marcel Meira and his son Babar, gain work as municipal employees.
On another occasion, when Babar was under house arrest in connection with belonging to another crime ring, Ben-Guzi allegedly signed a recommendation that Babar’s detention conditions be relaxed so he could move freely. Ben-Guzi did so to allow Babar to continue managing Meira’s crime ring, the indictment said.
In that recommendation, Ben-Guzi praised Babar for his dedication to his municipal work, and said he was an “outstanding” employee – despite the fact that he had never actually supervised Babar’s work.
The indictment said that in 2009, Ben-Guzi helped Meira win a tender to run services on Ashdod’s seven beaches.
To ensure he won the tender, Meira allegedly instructed several people to submit proposals for the work, when in fact he himself would carry out the work.
Meira did not register with the tax authorities for the work, neither did he keep proper accounting books, the indictment said.
Also charged is Roget Zafrani, another municipal employee, who according to the indictment used his personal bank accounts to launder money for the gang, purchase property and to finance Meira’s family home from 2003 through 2011.
The remaining defendants are Meira’s sons Babar Meira and Lior David Meira; and Eliyahu ‘Monty’ Nahmias, Haim Hazut, Leon Krotshe and Chai Nahmias.
Babar, Meira’s eldest son, acted as his father’s right-handman in the gang, and purchased cellphones and SIM cards for the crime ring, the indictment alleges.
Meira’s second son, Lior, allegedly helped his father by transferring money and messages for him, and by disrupting any police attempts to investigate the gang.
Eliyahu Nahmias oversaw the gang’s gambling clubs and also helped launder money, the indictment said.
Hazut allegedly helped Babar control gaming clubs throughout the city, and Krotshe helped Meira by acting as a channel for loans connected with his criminal activity.
The indictment also alleges the gang ran a network of gambling dens throughout Ashdod, including one on the city’s Haerez Street. The gang even transferred proceeds from that gambling den to Meira when he was in prison, the indictment said.