4 Indicted in Stolen Judaica Case


italy-shulCharges were filed today against the four Jerusalem residents who were apprehended last week for stealing rare Judaica artifacts from a shul in Milan, Italy, and smuggling them into Israel with intent to sell.

According to the charge sheet, which was filed with the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, it was the 22-year-old who initiated the theft. He travelled to Milan earlier this month to scope out the items and come up with a strategy for the robbery. He reportedly disguised himself as a worshiper attending service at the city’s most prominent synagogue.

While visiting the temple, the man placed two empty bags next to the Torah ark that contained the Judaica objects. Shortly after, he located the keys to the ark. He then called his friend, another suspect in the case, and asked him for help in return for a $6,000 payment. He even offered to pay for his friend’s plane ticket to Italy.

That same day, suspect #2  met with suspect #1’s younger brother, suspect #3, who gave him about 500 euro to cover his expenses. Suspect #2 then flew to Italy, where he met with suspect #1. The two arrived at they synagogue’s prayer gate and rang the bell, and were allowed in after exchanging words with the secretary.

The investigation found that while suspect #2 served as a lookout, suspect #1 entered the chamber that contained the aron kodesh and took four pairs of pomegranate-shaped decorative tassels and two antique crowns, the oldest of which dates back to the 18th century. The estimated worth of the stolen artifacts was a million euro.

Loot at hand, the pair travelled to Paris by train. They boarded a plane to Israel the next day. Here entered the fourth suspect, who picked up suspect #1 and suspect #2 from the airport. Together with suspect #1’s brother, he also contacted Jerusalem-based Judaica dealers in order to sell the artifacts. Shortly before completing deal, they were caught by the police.

The suspects are accused of fraudulent acceptance of goods, money laundering, impersonation, forgery, the use of forged documents, smuggling, conspiracy to commit a crime and theft. The prosecution requested the suspects to be detained until the completion of the proceedings.