'Israeli Madoff' Gets 15 Years for Elaborate Con Scheme

Tel Aviv District Court yesterday sentenced a man to 15 years in jail for defrauding 55 people, most of them his own friends and relatives, of some NIS 30 million between 2002 and 2009 by posing as a successful financial advisor.

The court also fined Eliyahu Hefetz NIS 1 million and ordered him to pay NIS 6.5 million to his victims in compensation - the maximum amount permitted by law. This will be on top of the NIS 14 million he has already repaid.

Hefetz, who never served in the army or went to college, and who was unemployed, presented himself to his victims as a veteran of an elite army unit, a Shin Bet security service agent and a financial manager who did private banking for individuals and companies on behalf of Credit Suisse bank. He also claimed to have a master's degree in economics and to be working on his doctorate.

Hefetz persuaded his victims - who included a single mother with a brain-damaged child - to let him invest their money by promising high returns. He also forged documents attesting to his alleged past successes as an investment consultant.

But instead of investing the victims' money, Hefetz deposited all of it in his own account at Bank Leumi and spent it freely.

He also had three wives - one official and two common-law - unbeknown to each other.