Israel Police arrested 15 people overnight Tuesday suspected of operating a human trafficking ring to bring women to work as prostitutes in the greater Tel Aviv area. The suspects operated a complex network, pimping women they brought from Russia and Ukraine. Those arrested are also suspected of laundering millions of shekels through the operation.
The ring is suspected of operating through a website and the Telegram app, offering sexual services to men in central and southern Israel. The encounters took place in apartments rented by the ring's members or by the men ordering the services. A police raid on the ring’s apartments Tuesday uncovered six women involved in prostitution. Undercover police officers located the apartments after they made appointments to meet the women through websites the ring operated.
According to the police, at the head of the ring is a 41-year-old man from Givatayim, who is known to law enforcement as a human trafficker. His wife, who was arrested alongside him, is suspected of having knowledge of his dealings. On Tuesday evening, the court decided to extend his detention by eight days.
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In 2014, he was arrested along with others for operating a network trafficking women from Colombia. In that case, he was suspected of human trafficking, bringing a person into the country for prostitution and other crimes. One of the women involved asserted that he had taken away her passport and held her in an apartment in Israel for eight months. He was convicted of vice crimes and served 10 months in prison.
Six of the suspects are drivers under investigation for bringing the women to apartments to which they were ordered. Three of the detainees are suspected of running the ring. One of them, police suspect, was a real estate agent who located apartments to which the women were taken. The second allegedly supplied drugs and the third was allegedly responsible for advertising sex services and maintaining the ring’s website.
The detainees include a 36-year-old man from Jaljulya and a few others who the police believe extorted the ring operators. They are suspected of kidnapping one of the ring members and of extorting hundreds of thousands of shekels from the head of the ring and of threatening him and his people not to go to the police.