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One of the main suspects in an alleged pedophile ring was charged with sexual assault Friday.

The Tel Aviv District Court charged Haim Atar, 36, of Holon, with approaching teenagers - some of them under 14 - in online gay dating forums and chat rooms starting in 2004, in order to solicit sex. Atar allegedly presented himself as a younger man named "Tal," and persuaded teenage boys to come to his apartment, where he he sodomized them and performed other obscene acts.

Atar allegedly paid some of the boys afterward, and on one occasion gave food, clothing and cash to a boy and his family facing financial hardships. Atar allegedly told the teen he would aid the family so long as he continued to have sex with him, and also threatened to tell the boy's acquaintances about the nature of their relationship if he refused. In some cases Atar allegedly gave the boy alcohol to facilitate the sexual acts.

The Tel Aviv District Attorney's Office is seeking to keep Atar in custody for the duration of the legal proceedings, citing the serious nature of the allegations and calling him a danger to his underage victims and the public.

Atar was convicted of a violent crime in 2002.

Tel Aviv police officers arrested Atar along with nine suspects for alleged sexual relations with a minor, starting when the victim was 13, about two months ago. They recently began expressing doubt that the state could prove its case against the suspects, saying they feared the witness might not be able to testify in court, which would make a conviction difficult.

A source in the Tel Aviv Police said the witness's statements to police were inconsistent, and that his trauma might affect his ability to testify in court. Nevertheless, the source said that two or three of the 10 suspects will be charged.