Israeli Organized Crime Figure Sentenced to 32 Years in Federal Prison for Drug Trafficking, Money Laundering, and Extortion
LOS ANGELES—A man linked to one of the most notorious organized crime rings in Israel and who on his own operated “a vast international criminal conspiracy engaged in drug trafficking and money laundering” was sentenced today to 384 months in federal prison.
Moshe Matsri, 48, of Tarzana, was sentenced this morning by United States District Judge S. James Otero.
Matsri was found guilty by a federal jury last October of conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy to distribute at least five kilograms of cocaine, eight counts of money laundering, attempted distribution of at least five kilograms of cocaine, attempted possession with intent to distribute at least five kilograms of cocaine and conspiracy to commit extortion. He was convicted pursuant to a grand jury indictment that outlined Matsri’s role as leader of an organized crime enterprise that engaged in a wide-range of criminal behavior, including laundering money for narcotics traffickers by moving money around the world.
Matsri, who is also known as “Moshe the Religious,” is a well-known crime figure in the San Fernando Valley, and he has significant ties to the Abergil organized crime family, which is based in Israel and also operates internationally.
Matsri was found guilty following a two-week trial that also led to the conviction of Shay Paniry, 36, of Studio City, on drug trafficking, money laundering and extortion charges. “In this criminal corporation, [Paniry] was middle management, taking orders directly from Matsri and making sure the dirty work was done, whether he did it himself or recruited others to do it for him,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo for Paniry.
In a hearing yesterday, Judge Otero sentenced Paniry to 210 months in federal prison.
Matsri and Paniry have been in custody since July 12, 2013, when they and several co-defendants were arrested as the result of an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Los Angeles Police Department.
Matsri “was the leader of a vast international criminal conspiracy engaged in drug trafficking and money laundering across multiple continents,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum filed with the court. “As CEO of this multi-faceted criminal business, [Matsri] used his extensive, sophisticated network to move over $660,000 in cash he believed were drug proceeds across international borders and across the United States, in exchange for over $57,000 in commissions.”
Matsri and his co-defendants “conducted complex, layered transactions to wire money through shell accounts in locations as far-flung as the Marshall Islands, Cyprus, and Gibraltar,” according to the sentencing memo that also outlines how Matsri “used a network of trusted individuals to bypass the financial system entirely, using ‘hawala’ transactions to move cash instantaneously from New York to Los Angeles, and from Vancouver to Los Angeles.”
The evidence presented at trial showed that Matsri agreed to help two undercover agents—he thought they were a Colombian drug trafficker and his Los Angeles-based associate—transport what he believed to be cocaine from Los Angeles to Utah in a car with a hidden trap compartment, and collect what believed to be a $40,000 drug debt using vandalism and threats of violence. Matsri also developed a plan to ship 20 kilograms of cocaine from Panama to Israel, and he paid $79,500 in cash for his share of the deal. Furthermore, Matsri proposed a deal to purchase 100 kilograms of cocaine on credit in Los Angeles for sale in New York, a deal that culminated in his arrest nearly two years ago.
In addition to Matsri and Paniry, the indictment names several co-defendants:
- Youval Geringer-Ganor, 62, of Los Angeles, who is scheduled to go to trial on September 1;
- Yaron Cohen, 45, of Amsterdam, who is scheduled to go to trial on April 12, 2016;
- Ibrahim Oter, 64, of Brussels, who is scheduled to go to September 12;
- Nisim Sabag, 38, of Los Angeles, who pled guilty to extortion and was sentenced to 355 days in jail; and
- Hector Miguel Gomez-Navarro, 25, of Cudahay, who pled guilty to charges of conspiracy to distribute at least five kilograms of cocaine and extortion and was sentenced to 41 months in prison.