Suspects in Schalit scam to remain in custody

New information surfaces regarding scope and method of alleged fraud by two men suspected of swindling donors who contributed to Free Gilad Schalit campaign.

The two men suspected of swindling donors who contributed to the Free Gilad Schalit campaign were remanded for eight more days on Wednesday, after new information surfaced regarding the scope and method of their alleged fraud.
The two men, Ronen Bar- Shira and Mordechai Ben- David, have been in police custody since their arrests – on February 28 and March 2, respectively.
In the remand hearing at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court, Supt. Lior Reiss told the court about the suspects’ alleged involvement in additional scams. It was also revealed that a third man, who has yet to be identified, was arrested for involvement in the sting.
“These suspects – as well as others who worked alongside them, some of whom are currently in custody – operated in a number of arenas and in two major methods,” Reiss said.
“One was defrauding donors who contributed to public goals – taking advantage of causes that are in consensus, like the Gilad Schalit flotilla, the Carmel forest fire disaster and others.
“The second method was conning moshavim and kibbutzim – promising that they would raise millions of dollars for them and [then] taking money out of their accounts, supposedly to pay mediators – but never bringing in any donations,” he added. “Unfortunately [Bar-Shira] is also suspected of attempting to defraud the Rambam Medical Center Emergency Department – which treated the Carmel Fire casualties, including Asst.- Cmdr. Ahuva Tomer – promising to take them on a trip using money raised for the cause.”
He said Bar-Shira is suspected of being behind a similar fraud that took place before last year’s Free Gilad Schalit protest march.
“[Bar-Shira] said in his first interrogation that money raised by him was deposited in a bank account of a company called El El Israel – an account belonging to his wife – and that the money was deposited there because he had to pay for the bus rental immediately,” Reiss said.
“Those very payments were actually split in two, with some of the money coming from El El Israel, and the rest from the Maor Foundation – which is the legitimate foundation dealing with the Gilad Schalit campaign.
The bus company said he wasn’t the one to pay them, so the question is: Where did the money go?” In response to questions posed by Bar-Shira’s lawyer during the hearing, Reiss revealed that the police suspected hundreds of thousands of shekels were donated to the fictitious causes – and a majority pocketed by Bar Shira.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if every person who donated money through Bar-Shira will say that the money never reached its goal, but that is not the question that lies before us,” said Bar-Shira’s lawyer Rosa Aharon. “The question is whether the suspects need to be in custody, and the answer is no.”
Aharon argued there was no risk in freeing her client because he had already proven that he was willing to cooperate with the investigation.
Ben-David’s lawyer, Uri Keinan, said even if the court decided to remand Bar-Shira, his client deserved different consideration.
He claimed Ben-David was chosen as a scapegoat because of his criminal record, adding that his actual part in the scam was only technical and minor.
“He doesn’t know who took the money – he was hired to raise funds and paid on a daily basis,” Keinan said. “If they took a 21-year-old with a smooth tongue and told him to raise money – which later turned out, never reached its target – his intention would be questioned.
“Here we have a problem. He has a record of fraud and forgery, so it was easy for the police to say that they were birds of a feather,” he continued.
The judge determined that based on evidence he was presented with, there was sufficient cause to suspect the men were involved in the acts they were suspected of, and ruled to keep them under arrest for eight days longer to enable the police to complete the investigation.