Tube-scam conman gets 18 months

By Dana Gloger, August 1, 2008

The so-called Tube shekel scammer has been jailed for 18 months, in his second such prosecution this year.

Israel Aharonovitz, 58, of Hackney, East London, had already been sentenced to a year's imprisonment in April for three counts of fraud by false representation after he obtained £368 from Tube passengers he identified as Jewish.

After further offences came to light, Aharonovitz was prosecuted again, for another three counts.

At Southwark Crown Court last week, prosecutor Clare Davies told the court that the Israeli had targeted Jewish people on underground trains and asked them for money.

On two occasions he told the victims that he needed money to buy medication for his daughter who had just had a liver transplant in Israel. He claimed that he had not been able to change shekels into sterling and that he was returning to Israel the same day.

He managed to convince one of his victims to go to a cashpoint with him and withdraw £500. He said he would repay her the money if she contacted him, but gave a false name, address and telephone number.
Another of his victims gave him £200 while the third handed over £30.

Ms Davies said: "The consistent theme is that the complainants have all been Jewish."

She read to the court part of a victim impact statement, in which the woman said: "I have suffered financial loss and... I have also suffered emotionally.

"I have been very distressed as I gave the money in good faith. The man asked me to pray for his daughter which I did.

"That was my prayer time and I will never get that time back. I feel I was targeted because of my religion."
Defence barrister Gary Grant said Aharonovitz "accepted that his behaviour has been despicable" and added: "He accepts that they [the offences] are mean-spirited and nasty because they preyed on the good spirit of others. He is an Orthodox Jew, so it is to his increased shame that he targeted other Jews."

Mr Grant explained that his client had a gambling addiction which had driven him to commit the crimes.

"They were committed at a time when he was desperate and lost and at the lowest ebb of his life. His gambling has given him nothing but misery and these were crimes from which he derived no pleasure at all," he said.

Mr Grant told the court that Aharonovitz's family had been unaware of his addiction.

He said: "When his wife was phoned with news of his arrest, she was driving. She was so shocked that she crashed into a tree.

"It was very serious and she was in a coma, and has only just been released from hospital. This preys on his conscience."

He added: "He is at rock bottom. He has no visitors because he has no friends or family here. He doesn't feel able to socialise and has been targeted as he is conspicuously a religious man."

Mr Grant told the court that it was "highly unfortunate" that these offences were not dealt with at the same time as the original offences for which he was prosecuted in April.

"He is suffering death by a thousand cuts with these repeated hearings," he said.

In sentencing Aharonovitz, Recorder Matthias Kelly QC said: "Your counsel has rightly said your behaviour was despicable. It was mean-spirited and nasty. You targeted a particular ethnic group you believed to be vulnerable."

Aharonovitz was sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment, which will run concurrently with the 12-month sentence he is already serving for the first prosecution.

Last updated: 12:38pm, July 31 2008