Judge releases evidence against lawyer suspected of stealing from client
The Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court has allowed the name of the lawyer accused of breaking into his client's home and stealing tens of thousands of euros and dollars to be released.
The police were surprised by Judge Benny Sagi's decision not only to release the suspect's name, but that the judge also delineated much of the evidence against the suspected lawyer, even before the police had decided whether to recommend indicting him.
The lawyer, Ofer Almog, is representing one of the 11 suspects arrested three weeks ago for allegedly bilking millions out of American senior citizens. The suspects are said to have defrauded the victims by phoning them and telling them they had won the lottery, and just needed to pay a small sum to receive their winnings.
Almog's client, Toshin Samuels, told the Tel Aviv fraud squad that Almog had taken 60,000 euros and $40,000 from his home.
Almog was taken into custody and released to house arrest. His lawyer asked the court to withhold his name for 10 days.
"This is not only a matter of attributing a criminal act to the suspect involving obstruction of justice, but also commiting prohibited acts, including criminal acts, in the framework of the lawyer-client relationship," Judge Sagi wrote. "I prefered [serving] the public interest by releasing the suspect's name, although I am willing to presume that such publication could cause serious harm to his livelihood. Because most of the data has been presented to the suspect during his questioning and although the investigation has not yet been completed, I will allow myself to go into more detail than usual at this point."
The judge also wrote that Almog "had linked himself to a visit to [Samuels'] apartment, giving explanations [to cover]... the possibility that his fingerprints would be discovered, including on the excercise machine in which the money was hidden, and on a screwdriver that was found nearby."
Almog told police that when he entered the apartment he found a shirt hanging on the excercise machine and took it to bring to Samuels and that is why his fingerprints were on the machine, the screwdriver and the table.
Almog said that his client told him there was a key under the mat, but because there was not one there, Almog had to call a locksmith to break into the flat to collect the clothes and then replace the lock.
Almog said he called the locksmith from his cellphone, but the records show that no such call was made. He then said he had his secretary call a locksmith, which the secretary denied.
The Tel Aviv fraud squad also has video footage of their first search of Samuels' apartment, in which no shirt is seen hanging on the fitness machine.
Police also have evidence that Almog threatened another lawyer representing Samuels, Boaz Reuven. Samuels reportedly told Reuven that he feared Almog had taken the money.
The fraud squad wanted the court to prohibit Almog from practicing law for an extended period, during which the prosecution would build a case against him for theft, obstruction of justice and threats.
However the court, with the consent of the police and the defense, prohibited Almog from practicing law for a period of only one week.
The other attorneys defending Samuels, Reuven and Yahel Ben-Oved declined to respond to questions from Haaretz.