The Jerusalem District Attorney’s office filed an indictment, on
Sunday, against four Jerusalem men for stealing and selling judaica
artifacts worth upward of one million Euro from a synagogue in Milan
earlier this month.
Two of the men, 22-year-old Meir Mualem and 21-year-old Meir
Yerushalmi, were indicted on charges of theft, impersonation and
conspiring to commit a crime for their part of the heist.
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According to the indictment, Mualem lifted the artifacts, silver Torah
crowns, rimmonim and other silver and gold objects, from the Torah Ark
in the synagogue, while Yerushalmi distracted synagogue staff. The two
then flew back to Israel with the goods, planning to sell them as
their own. When asked at the customs inspection what they were doing
with the objects, the men told the inspector that the artifacts were
damaged and that they planned to have them fixed.
Upon arriving in Israel, the two men were met at the airport by the
third suspect, 23-year-old Netanel Saadon. On the way to Jerusalem the
men contacted an art dealer by the name of Haim Stefansky and arranged
for him to come and inspect part of the goods.
Saadon, together with the fourth suspect, Yosef Haim Mualem, Meir’s
brother, met with the art dealer at the Ramada hotel, introducing
themselves under false names.
Later that evening the sides arranged to meet again in Modiin Illit so
that Stefansky could take some of the goods to be appraised. When they
met, Stefansky gave Saadon $70,000 and some of his own artifacts to
keep in deposit.
According to the indictment, Stefansky and Mualem conducted a
negotiation over the final price over the phone and the two agreed on
$285,000 for the whole set of goods.
In order to write up the contract, Stefansky asked Saadon for his
identification number. Saadon ordered a false ID card made for him
under the name Jonathan Hadad, and gave Stefansky the false number.
Stefansky learned that the goods were stolen, after the Italian rabbi
alerted art dealers of the theft.
Upon learning that the goods were stolen Stefansky requested to cancel
the deal and met with Saadon to make the exchange. According to the
indictment, Saadon returned the artifacts, but not the money.
Saadon and Yosef Mualem have been charged with impersonation and
forgery and all four have been charged with money laundering and
receiving goods under false pretenses.
In its request to have the suspects held until the end of legal
proceedings, the district attorney’s office wrote that the men had
confessed to the acts and that the reason they wanted them behind bars
was because they presented a danger to the public.