Israeli Stars Fall Prey to Comic's Conman Brother

Suspect allegedly said his 'special financial experience' could bring celebrities handsome profits.

The brother of a stand-up comic was arrested Monday on suspicion of defrauding dozens of Israeli entertainers and television personalities of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Fraud squad officers arrested Shoshan Shalem, the brother of comedian Erez Shalem, for allegedly taking the celebrities' money in exchange for promises of high returns.

The fraud squad had received several complaints of late, mainly from people working in the entertainment industry, alleging that Shalem had cheated them.

"The suspect presented himself as an investments adviser and gained their trust after he told them that his brother was a well-known stand-up comic," said Superintendent Yoram Selkman, the head of the Central District's Fraud squad.

"He promised those complaining that he would bring them handsome profits with the aid of his 'special financial experience.' Many of them were enticed into believing him and gave cash or bank transfers totaling $50,000 to $70,000 and even more."

An investigation into activities of Shalem, a Hod Hasharon resident, found that he updated the entertainers with false reports of the progress of their investments. At first he reported that the investments were making significant profits but several months later he told them that the money had been lost due to "market fluctuations."

Shalem refused to cooperate with investigators, utilizing his right to silence. A Kfar Sava court on Wednesday extended his remand for three days.

Channel 10 entertainment correspondent Haim Etgar and Shalom Michaelisvhilli of the comedy trio "Ma Kashur" are among the victims.

The fraud squad expects more people to come forward with complaints in the coming days.