Margol pleads guilty to extortion

Conspiracy charges dropped, prosecution wants community service sentence.

 Tsanani 311 (photo credit: REUTERS/Yossi Zeliger/Israel Hayom)
Tsanani 311
(photo credit: REUTERS/Yossi Zeliger/Israel Hayom)
Popular singer and television personality Margalit Tsanani pleaded guilty in the Tel Aviv District Court on Sunday to extorting her talent manager, Assaf Atadegi.
Tsanani admitted to the charges as part of a plea bargain agreed with state prosecutors Guy Goren and Oz Klein, according to which additional charges of conspiracy to commit a crime were dropped.
Judge Oded Mudrik ruled to accept the plea bargain, and convicted Tsanani of extortion.
Though the maximum penalty for extortion is nine-years imprisonment, Tsanani, 63, with no prior criminal record, is expected to avoid a jail term. Under the bargain, the prosecution requested Tsanani be sentenced to six months’ community service and a suspended sentence. The community service term is subject to approval and an expert report, and the court will convene again to hear sentencing arguments on December 12.
At the end of the hearing, Tsanani was formally released from house arrest and the court canceled all arrest restrictions against her.
Tsanani’s co-defendant, Michael Hazan, also pleaded guilty to extortion, and the prosecution agreed to drop additional conspiracy charges against him. According to Hazan’s bargain, he will receive a sentence of 10-months imprisonment.
Tsanani’s arrest in August caused a media storm, as police and state prosecutors attempted to paint a picture of a sinister underworld criminal affair in which mob bosses had infiltrated Israel’s show business world.
Police suspected Tsanani, a judge in the popular singing contest TV show Kohav Nolad, had used her connections and her role on the show to give underworld figures a foothold in the entertainment industry.
In connection with the same affair, police also arrested Michael Hazan, allegedly an agent of the Amir Mullner crime family. In the original indictment served in August, both Hazan and Tsanani were charged with conspiring to commit a crime as well as acting jointly to extort Tsanani’s talent manager, Atadegi.
In a remand hearing in August, Judge Zvi Gurfinkel of the Tel Aviv District Court said, “If the facts of the indictment are proven, then a picture emerges of a serious crime of extortion, and offense that presents serious harm to the public.”
Significantly, however, the amended indictment drops all references to crime boss Shalom Domrani, whom police had originally tried to link to the Tsanani extortion case.
Police arrested Domrani in August on suspicion of being connected to the case, but he was released after the Lahav 433 Unit was unable to convince state prosecutors there was sufficient evidence to indict and convict Domrani in court.
According to the amended indictment, in the course of her work on Kohav Nolad in 2009, Tsanani became acquainted with singer Omer Adam. As a result of that connection, Atadegi began to act as Adam’s talent manager and agreed to give Tsanani half of the money he earned from representing Adam.
However, at the start of 2010, a dispute arose over how revenues from Adam should be shared between Atadegi and Tsanani, the indictment charges.
Atadegi told Tsanani he did not want to represent her any more, and offered to buy out her share of Adam’s royalties, but Tsanani refused.
The two then hired an arbitrator to settle the dispute, but Atadegi refused to accept an agreement to give Tsanani half of the money he earned from Adam.
Tsanani then brought in Hazan to threaten and intimidate Atadegi, which she thought would solve the conflict.
From April through July 2011, Hazan threatened Atadegi with the full knowledge of Tsanani, and told him to “do favors” for Tsanani’s son, Assaf, by giving him free tickets for Adam’s performances.
In return for Hazan’s extorting Atadegi, Tsanani used her role as a judge on Kohav Nolad to do favors for Hazan.
According to the amended indictment, during a live broadcast of the show in June, Hazan set up a telephone conversation between Tsanani and Sagiv Tayari, one of crime boss Amir Mullner’s agents. Tayari, who was serving a prison sentence at the time, is also a close relative of Kohav Nolad contestant Liron Ramati, who was performing live on the show that evening. Tsanani then mentioned Tayari’s name during the show.