Palestinian arrested for extortion, identity theft, illegally hiding in Jerusalem church

Police said the 47-year-old suspect was originally arrested for trying to extort money from a widow.

By Pesach Benson, TPS

Israeli police arrested a Palestinian resident of Hebron hiding in a Jerusalem church for weeks was arrested for fraud, extortion, impersonating others, and illegally being in Israel, it was cleared for publication on Sunday.

Police said the 47-year-old suspect was originally arrested for trying to extort money from a widow after finding intimate photos on her deceased husband’s cell phone.

“This is a Palestinian suspect, a resident of Hebron, who entered Israel illegally and used to pretend to be a different professional every time and thus deceived his many victims and extorted a lot of money from them while taking advantage of their hardships,” said investigator Cpl. Nadav Rapaport.

In a search of the Jerusalem church where the suspect was hiding, police found a large number of credit cards, bags, jewelry, cell phones, passports, and more.

As the investigation continued, investigators found that in addition to entering Israel illegally, the suspect would impersonate his victims, each time as a different professional, to blackmail victims with threats.

In one case, the suspect posed to a widow as a lawyer and promised to take care of her late husband’s inheritance. The woman, in her innocence, gave the suspect her husband’s credit cards, passports, and cell phone and transferred over 500,000 shekels ($137,000) to the suspect.

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At some point, the suspect found intimate photos of the woman on the late husband’s cell phone and threatened to publish them if the woman did not transfer money to him.

In another case, the suspect identified himself to a victim as helping to obtain building permits, after finding that the victim was living in a house without building permits. He claimed that for 130 shekels ($35), he could arrange the permits. After the victim paid, the suspect disappeared.