TEL AVIV (Oct. 21)
The scion of one of Israel’s leading families was identified by police Friday as the motorcycle bandit who robbed 22 banks at gunpoint in the Tel Aviv area during the last 18 months.
Ronnie Leibovitch, 37, whom the police said confessed to the crimes, is the grandson of Chaim Leibovitch, founder and owner of the Etz Hazayit olive oil company, an enterprise dating back to the pre-statehood era.
Leibovitch, married with two children, was arrested Thursday at his posh suburban home, where he fled to elude police after a passerby spotted him entering the Givatayim branch of Bank Leumi.
Apparently in deference to his family, the police obtained a court order banning publication of the suspect’s identity. But it was lifted after Tel Aviv magistrate ordered him held in custody for 15 days pending arraignment.
The police said Leibovitch cooperated fully by reconstructing his bank heists for video cameras. They also said they have traced about $175,000 of the money he allegedly robbed.
Uri Slonim, a prominent defense lawyer retained by the family, has asked that his client receive a psychiatric examination “with the cooperation of the police.”
Leibovitch was described by friends as tall handsome and feckless. He was unable to keep a job, heavily in debt and was subsidized in a lavish lifestyle by his brother, a successful businessman living in the United States who flew here for preliminary court hearing.
According to the police, Leibovitch had several bank accounts in which he deposited stolen money. Some were in banks he had robbed.
The money went to pay his debts, including the cost overruns on a luxurious villa he was building near his rented home in Herzliya Pituach He reportedly rented it from Dan Shomron, Israel Defense Force chief of staff.
Leibovitch owned two motorcycles, a red Suzuki and a black Motoguzzi, which he used alternately to make swift getaways in heavy traffic after broad daylight bank robberies.
When not in use, they were concealed small truck in the garage of his parents’ home.
Police reportedly found a letter there from the accused to his wife apologizing for the disgrace he would cause when, as he apparently realized, he would inevitably be caught.