U.S.-Israeli Phone Hacker Convicted on Fraud, Threat, Hate Crime Charges

YERUSHALAYIM -
A U.S.-Israeli teen who was arrested in Israel on suspicion of making bomb threats against Jewish community centers is seen before the start of a remand hearing at Magistrate’s Court in Rishon LeTzion, in 2017. (Reuters/Baz Ratner/File Photo)

A 19-year-old Ashkelon resident who made hundreds of threatening phone calls to Jewish institutions in the United States and elsewhere was convicted of a host of crimes Thursday in a Tel Aviv court. According to the indictment, the suspect, known as M., made over 2,000 phone calls to Jewish schools, synagogues, community centers, and organizations in the U.S., Europe and South America, telling them there were bombs planted in their facilities.

In addition, he is accused of making threats against specific individuals. He also made threats against airport, police stations and other non-Jewish related facilities, prosecutors said. In some cases, he demanded – and received – payments from his victims, which added charges of extortion and money laundering to his indictment. Sentencing will take place at a later date.

Among the charges against M. are harassment, using computers and telephones to make threats, and hate crimes, a charge that prosecutors decided just recently to attach to his indictment. According to the indictment, S. used an on-line phone system to make free calls to the victims of his calls, and thus was able to hide his identity.

In addition, M. was convicted with attempting to escape police custody. In footage from last February, M. is seen somehow freeing himself from his handcuffs at a Yerushalayim police station, whereupon he begins to run away from guards. He was caught after a short chase and returned to detention.

M., a resident of Ashkelon, is a dual Israel-U.S. citizen. He immigrated with his family to Israel from the United States about 15 years ago. According to his mother, the youth’s actions may have been due to a physical problem. In an interview earlier this year, S., the youth’s mother, said that “about five years ago we saw that there was a growth in his brain. It could be that this was causing the trouble. I apologize for the hurt he caused, but this was not done on purpose.”