British Transport Police this week paid tribute to JC readers who helped catch the so-called Tube shekel scammer.
Israel Aharonovitz, 58, of Seven Sisters Road, Hackney, was jailed for a year at the beginning of Pesach for three counts of fraud by false representation after he obtained a total of £368 from Orthodox Jewish passengers, which he said was to pay for the treatment of a sick relative at home in Israel.
During the frauds, Aharonovitz, speaking Hebrew, promised to return the money and provided false contact details to his victims at Finsbury Park and King’s Cross St Pancras Tube stations in November 2007 and March and April 2008.
He was caught and arrested at King’s Cross Tube station just after midday on Friday 11 April by officers after they recognised him from CCTV images from Tube stations that had been circulated to all BTP police stations.
The officers followed him and watched him getting on and off trains at the station, crossing platforms and attempting to speak to passengers before he was arrested. PC Martin Wilson, one of the investigating officers, said: “In each case, Aharonovitz travelled on the Tube looking for people of Jewish Orthodox appearance.
“After identifying his victims, he would talk to them in Hebrew and tell them either that a relative of his was sick or that his bank card had expired. He would then ask if he could exchange shekels, the Israeli currency, for pounds sterling.”
When his victims agreed to help and took him to an ATM, Aharonovitz would announce that he did not have any shekels on him but would send a cheque to reimburse them if they gave him their name and address. The promised cheque would never arrive.
“This was a clear case of fraud whereby the offender preyed on the good nature of his victims.
“I would like to pass my thanks to the victims, members of the community and Jewish Chronicle readers who came forward to provide us with statements and information because with their help it was possible for us to quickly identify Aharonovitz as the offender,” added PC Wilson.
Aharonovitz, who pleaded guilty to the charges, was sentenced at City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court on April 18.