Israeli crime boss pleads guilty to drug charges in L.A. court


LOS ANGELES (JTA) — Reputed Israeli crime boss Itzhak Abergil pleaded guilty in a Los Angeles federal court to participating in a large-scale Ecstasy distribution ring.

The members of the ring killed an accomplice in Sherman Oaks, Calif., nine years ago.

Attorney Mark Werksman told The Associated Press that as part of Monday’s plea agreement, Abergil, 43, will serve a 10-year prison term. Sentencing is set for May 21.

Israeli authorities extradited Abergil, his brother Meir, and three associates to Los Angeles 16 months ago. They have been held in a federal prison facility with the exception of Meir Abergil, who was freed last August and returned to Israel after serving three years in Israeli and American prisons.

In a 77-page, 32-count indictment, and in subsequent statements, U.S. prosecutors charged that the Abergil brothers and their associates ran one of the largest rings importing narcotics into the United States, working with two other drug syndicates, the Jerusalem Network and another in the San Fernando Valley.

Itzhak Abergil also was charged with racketeering conspiracy to murder Sami Atias. In his guilty plea, Abergil said that Atias was killed for stealing a large drug shipment from the gang.

The indictment listed the underworld monikers of the alleged mobsters, with Yitzhak Abergil also known as "The Friend," "The Big Friend" and "The Man from the South."

The three indicted associates are Sasson Barashy, Moshe Malul and Israel Ozifa (aka "Israel the Tall" or "The Tall One"). Two other defendants, Yoram El-Al (aka "The Wounded") and Luis Sandoval (aka "Barney Twin" or "Hog"), are fugitives and sought by police.

Israeli courts rarely agree to extradite their nationals. In this case, Israeli and U.S. officials agreed that if the defendants are found guilty, they would not receive the death penalty and would serve any sentences in Israeli prisons.

The Los Angeles Police Department has been concerned with Israeli crime in the city since the 1970s.

“Israeli crime here tends to be quite sophisticated and hard to track,” Capt. Greg Hall, commander of the department’s Major Crimes Division, told the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles in an interview prior to the hearing.

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