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Melbourne man jailed for extorting from fellow Jews

SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) – A Jewish father of four was jailed in Australia for threatening to kill two other Jews in an extortion bid.

Michael Abay, from Melbourne, desperately wanted to fund his son Sam’s aspiring Formula One racing career, but when he could no longer provide the funds he tried last year to extort $100,000 in Australian currency — just under U.S.$100,000 — from Leo Rozner and Harvey Bierman.

Abay, 61, was sentenced earlier this week to three years by Victorian County Court Judge Joe Gullaci after the defendant, who was arrested last November, pleaded guilty to two counts of making demands with threats to kill.

The judge suspended all but nine months, noting Abay’s remorse and his mental disorder at the time of the extortion.

Abay wrote anonymous letters to his targets, pretending to be an Islamic extremist. He followed up the written threats with calls from pay phones.

“Your offending was serious, reprehensible, [and] targeted members of your community who were totally innocent of any wrongdoing and you caused them fear, anxiety and uncertainty," Judge Gullaci said. "Your offending, in my view, was well-planned and executed and you persisted over a number of months."

Rozner told the Australian Jewish News this week: “I’m still in shock that I was a target. I wasn’t so scared for myself but my children. We were all threatened.”

A psychiatrist said Abay was suffering depression and alcoholism at the time, according to a psychiatrist. His business had collapsed and his wife had left him, according to media reports.

Abay had plunged himself into his son’s career since Sam was nine and had shown his talent in go-kart racing. Sam Abay, now 22, last year raced in British Formula 3 but in recent months he has been unable to raise the funds necessary for sponsorship.

Abay survived the 1956 Soviet invasion of Hungary when his family escaped to Austria, before moving to Australia.

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