Reputed Crime Boss Returns to Israel After Being Freed by U.S.

Facing difficulties building a case against him, U.S. authorities sign plea bargain with Meir Abergil leading to his release and return to Israel, leaving his brother Yitzhak and three others in the states awaiting trial.

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Reputed organized crime figure Meir Abergil returned to Israel from the United States Thursday after a California court approved a plea agreement setting him free. Abergil served about three years in prison in Israel and then the United States, following a U.S. request for extradition.

Abergil was charged - along with his brother Yitzhak and three others - with various alleged crimes involving the contract murder of an Israeli drug dealer in Los Angeles; laundering money from the Trade Bank of Israel in the United States; extorting and threatening Israeli business people; and trafficking in the drug Ecstasy.

Meir Abergil in court in 2008.Credit: Archive / Daniel Bar-On

U.S. authorities reportedly struggled to build a case that would stand up in court against Meir Abergil, who allegedly played a relatively minor role in the apparent crimes. He was allegedly involved mainly in the extortion of Asi Vaknin, the former co-owner of a modeling agency.

Therefore, U.S. authorities were apparently receptive to a plea bargain.

Contacts are still underway on plea agreements with Yitzhak Abergil - against whom U.S. authorities are seeking a 10-year prison term - and the three other defendants.

Meir Abergil, 42, was met at Ben-Gurion International Airport Thursday by his wife, Rinat, and his children. He complained upon his arrival that the State of Israel extradited him. He also proclaimed his innocence Thursday.

Meir Abergil's entanglement with Israeli law enforcement is not over yet. There are still criminal charges from 2009 pending against him in the district court in Petah Tikva over allegations regarding his involvement in an Internet gambling operation set up by brothers Reuven and Shoni Gavrieli. This separate case involves a gambling business that was set up about 10 years ago, and which operated in close to 100 locations around the country, including Internet cafes, convenience stores, soccer lottery outlets and nightclubs. For all intents and purposes, these venues reportedly functioned as casinos.

Meir Abergil is accused of promoting the alleged gambling network.

However, his lawyer, Avi Amiram, said that Abergil's involvement in the alleged activities was marginal. The lawyer called on Israeli Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to investigate the extradition of Meir Abergil and his co-defendants, saying the courts in Israel had been misled by law enforcement officials who exaggerated the evidence in the case.



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