3 DEFENDANTS EXTRADITED FROM ISRAEL TO STAND TRIAL FOR CONSPIRING TO DISTRIBUTE HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF ECSTASY PILLS
NOV 3--ANTHONY P. PLACIDO, Special Agent-in-Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration, New York, today announced the extradition from Israel to the Eastern District of New York, three Israeli citizens who are accused of conspiring to distribute hundreds of thousands of tablets of MDMA (commonly known as "ecstasy") in the New York area, including 500,000 pills that were seized by law enforcement in Brooklyn in late 2000. The defendants, ITZHAK COHEN, AVRAHAM HEKSCH and YAIR COHEN, were flown to New York in the custody of officers of the Israel National Police ("INP") late last week. Their preliminary appearances are scheduled today before United States Magistrate Judge Viktor V. Pohorelsky, at the U. S. Courthouse, 225 Cadman Plaza East, Brooklyn, New York.
The defendants have been in custody in Israel since October 31, 2001, when they were arrested at the request of the United States pursuant to an extradition treaty with Israel. In 1999, Israel amended its laws to permit the extradition of its nationals to other countries to stand trial for crimes committed overseas. The extradition proceedings in this case were among the first to the United States following that amendment to involve Israeli nationals accused of narcotics trafficking.
In November 2000, DEA Special Agents, NYSP Investigators and NYPD Detectives assigned to the New York Drug Enforcement Task Force were surveilling an individual on suspicion of MDMA trafficking, and at various times during a 24-hour period observed the defendants enter the coconspirator's residence in Brooklyn and then depart. Shortly thereafter, agents seized approximately 5,000 ecstasy pills contained in a shopping bag carried by the coconspirator, and nearly 500,000 ecstasy pills -- the second largest seizure ever in New York City -- from his house and car. According to the complaint and other court submissions, following these seizures, the defendants immediately fled to Israel.
Subsequent to his arrest, the coconspirator identified ITZHAK COHEN and AVRAHAM HEKSCH as his drug suppliers, and YAIR COHEN as his customer/distributor. The complaint and court documents allege that since early 2000, ITZHAK COHEN and AVRAHAM HEKSCH supplied the coconspirator with hundreds of thousands of ecstasy pills on consignment, including the 500,000 pills seized in November, 2000.
In May 2001, arrest warrants for the defendants were issued in the Eastern District of New York. On October 31, 2001, INP officers, accompanied by Task Force agents, apprehended all three defendants at their homes in Givat'ayim, a suburb of Tel Aviv.
During nearly two years of extradition litigation in Israel, the defendants unsuccessfully appealed twice to the Israel Supreme Court. Following the second of the two appeals, on August 7, 2003, the Israel Supreme Court held that the evidence submitted by the United States was more than sufficient under the terms of the treaty and upheld the lower court's order of extradition.
"We congratulate the government of Israel for its cooperation in this case," stated DEA Special Agent-in-Charge, ANTHONY P. PLACIDO. "Only through such cooperation can the fight against transnational crime succeed. This case provides a concrete example and puts transnational criminals on notice that we will take all the lawful steps necessary to bring drug traffickers to justice."
The defendants are charged with possessing with intent to distribute MDMA and conspiracy. If convicted, they each face a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment and a fine of $1 million.
The government's case is being prosecuted by the United States Attorney's Office Eastern District of New York. Assistance in the extradition requests was provided by Blair Berman, a Trial Attorney in the Office of International Affairs, United States Department of Justice.
ITZHAK COHEN, a/k/a
AVRAHAM HEKSCH, a/k/a