Israeli Police Arrest 26 Suspects for Indecent Acts and Sexual Harassment of Minors

An undercover officer masquerading as a 13-year-old girl helped trap alleged predators on WhatsApp and other social networks. The suspects range in age from 21 to 44

FILE Photo: An indicted suspect
Olivier Fitoussi

The Israel Police arrested 26 people suspected of committing indecent acts and sexual harassment of minors on Tuesday. The suspects were caught with the aid of an undercover officer who masqueraded as a 13-year-old girl, and who conversed with them on social networks and via video calls.

Almost all the suspects carried out their alleged sex crimes repeatedly in front of the police agent. Some asked her to strip during the conversations and a few proposed meeting with her, said the police.

The suspects, whose ages range from 21 to 44, include a high-school teacher from the Haifa area, a municipal employee and a man who teaches swimming to youths from the upscale town of Omer, near Be'er Sheva. Some of those detained have been arrested before for similar crimes.

“These are normal people who told the agent that they have daughters about her age, but that did not deter them,” said Chief Superintendent Eitan Omer, commander of the police’s central investigations unit in the Negev region.

The police used fake profiles to conduct chats on the Walla and Tapuz websites. The goals was for the suspects to use Skype, and from there to move to telephones and WhatsApp messaging, Omer explained, adding that such work serves to deter criminals and is a moral imperative.

The undercover agent was instructed not to tempt the suspects or reach out to them, and to limit her attempts to contact them. The officers involved initiated little and acted more in response to moves by the suspects, using advanced technological means to identify them, said Omer.

Last month, prosecutors filed an indictment against handball coach Beno Reinhorn, 35, for sexual offenses involving 121 adult women and female minors. Reinhorn was charged with using the internet to contact and harm 28 young girls and four women, and attempting to do the same to another 45 minors and four adults. He was also charged with monitoring another 40 minors by means of the social networks in an attempt to contact and hurt them, too.