International Business: Israel indicts French immigrants in euro scam

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JERUSALEM >> Israel's state prosecutor indicted four new immigrants from France on Wednesday for allegedly running a major international scam costing five European companies about 9.1 million euros, or over $10 million.

The companies that lost money are MediaMarkt, Eldi, Cora, ICI Paris XL and Intergamma, according to the indictment. Other companies entangled in the case include Electrolux, Bosch, Chanel, Kia Motors, and Toyota, though some companies did not fall for the trick, according to the indictment.

Israeli prosecution says the immigrants collected information on European companies, including names of company employees and details on money the companies owed to vendors.

Then, according to prosecutors, they used fake email accounts to send forged documents to a company's employee in charge of finances, presenting themselves as CEOs or representatives of a vendor owed money, and requesting the funds be sent to a different bank account — one under their control.

Still thriving

The case suggests that the so-called fake CEO scam is still thriving in Israel, where the man widely credited with pioneering the technique, Gilbert Chikli, continues to live openly in Israel, evading French attempts to arrest him.

Chikli is not suspected in the current case. The French-born defendants were identified as Henri Omessi, Daniel Allon, Jeremy Lalloum and Mordechai Lellouche. They were appearing at a court hearing on Wednesday, and it was not immediately known how they would plead.

In one scam, according to Wednesday's indictment, defendants impersonated executives of Belgium electronics company Eldi and German electronics giant Bosch, tricking an Eldi employee to transfer 794,175.70 euros owed to Bosch to the defendants' bank account.

In another scam, according to prosecutors, defendants impersonated an employee of Swedish home appliance company Electrolux, and tricked German electronics retailer MediaMarkt to send them 1,059,123.61 euros.

Altogether, the money they stole ended up in bank accounts under their control in Slovakia and Poland.

In March, two Italian-born immigrants were recruited to expand the con to entrap companies in Italy. The prosecutor also indicted them in a separate case for attempting — but failing — to steal money from Diners Club Italia.

According to the indictment, on May 2, three of the defendants were made aware of an article published in French media about scams carried out in Israel targeting French companies. Three minutes later, the three defendants began taking apart hard drives and destroying the computers used in the scam.

That same day, police raided the defendant's office in Netanya, a seaside Israeli city home to a large French immigrant population, following a nearly six month undercover investigation, including video surveillance inside the defendants' office.


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