The Tel Aviv District Court on Thursday issued a mixed verdict for Eitan Haya, often referred to as “head of the Israeli mafia in New York,” convicting him on several counts of extortion, money-laundering and other economic crimes, while acquitting him on others.
The court also convicted 10 of the 13 defendants connected with Haya of related crimes.
Haya focused his extortion activities on a variety of individuals that he conducted business with, people he lent money to, and people who he deemed were under-performing in business or criminal areas where he demanded quick profits.
Haya’s extortion methods varied from use of fragmentation grenades to threats of shootings, physical beatings and threats to victims’ families.
Notably, Haya was convicted of threatening two associates who turned state’s witness against him, although he tried to explain his interactions with them as legitimate attempts to collect debts they owed him.
The government eventually resettled the state’s witnesses overseas for their protection.
Haya resided in the United States from 1981 to 2004, eventually returning and reestablishing himself in Tel Aviv. He used various fictitious names and did business illegally through other people’s bank accounts to avoid detection and taxes.
In 2011, Haya suddenly reported his wealth to tax authorities at approximately NIS 15 million.
Some of the charges for which Haya was acquitted were a result of a lack of evidence, but acquittal on other charges resulted from what the court said was the state’s over-reliance on state witnesses with reliability issues.
The court noted that the state ignored destruction of evidence by its witnesses, as well as irregularities in their interrogations undermining their credibility, such as the fact that they were questioned together.
Despite a long list of problems with the investigation and aspects of the evidence provided by state witnesses, there was still sufficient reliable evidence to convict Haya and other defendants on most of the charges.