Israeli police: Former sports star ran Tel Aviv prostitution ring

Police reveal a former top Israeli athletic champion and her husband are alleged to have operated a prostitution ring and hid millions in illegal profits.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Israeli Police revealed Monday they have arrested a gang alleged to have been running a prostitution ring in the Tel Aviv region headed by a former sports star.

The woman, aged 50, from Ramat Gan, a city just outside Tel Aviv, operated a large network in which women were recruited from abroad for prostitution in Israel under the guise of massage parlors, Channel 12 News reported.

Following a covert investigation, eight suspects were arrested Sunday including the woman, who in the past was a famous athlete and even won the Israeli and European championships, the report said.

The gang is suspected of recruiting women from abroad to provide sexual services in discreet apartments in the cities of Givatayim, Ramat Gan, Petah Tikvah and Raanana, with each gang member having a defined role and responsibilities.

The investigation revealed that the network had been operating for a number of years and used systematic and sophisticated exploitation to recruit their victims through ads on Russian-language websites in Israel and abroad promising high wages for massage therapists.

The eight appeared in court Monday and were remanded into custody until at least Thursday on suspicion of laundering millions of shekels and committing tax fraud.

The woman was previously charged with pimping and prostitution, but the charges were dropped for lack of evidence, Haaretz reported, adding the new investigation appears to include a police officer who crossed the line and abused his role to sexually exploit women.

“We are talking about serious crimes of causing a person to leave her country for the purpose of engaging in prostitution, pimping for prostitution and money laundering amounting to millions of shekels,” said police inspector Jackie Bilbek.

An organization that fights trafficking in women said the arrests showed police could be effective, but that the government needs to take more action.

“Trafficking in women in Israel is alive and well even if it has changed its face, and the State of Israel is not doing enough to stop the phenomenon,” said lawyer Ayelet Dayan.

“In January 2019, a government decision was passed stating that a multiyear plan for combating human trafficking should be formulated – but to date the government decision has not been budgeted and not implemented.”

Dayan said instead of prostitution and tax evasion charges, prosecutors “should be filing a serious charge of trafficking in human beings.”