LOS ANGELES – A suspected Israeli crime lord pleaded guilty Monday to being part of a racketeering enterprise that distributed Ecstasy and whose members killed a man for stealing a large drug shipment, a defense attorney said.
Itzhak Abergil, 43, entered his plea in a Los Angeles federal courtroom, defense attorney Mark Werksman said. As part of a plea agreement, Werksman said Abergil will serve a 10-year sentence. Sentencing is set for May 21.
"The Israeli and US governments have their boots on his neck with these cases and if he didn't enter into an agreement like this he faced the risk of being obliterated and getting a life sentence," said Werksman, who added the label that his client is a crime boss is an exaggeration.
Abergil, his brother Meir Abergil, 58, and Israel Ozifa, 52 were arrested in 2008 in Israel after they were named in an indictment that alleged murder and international drug trafficking.
Ozifa also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import Ecstasy on Monday and is due for sentencing May 23.
Prosecutors believe Itzhak Abergil was one of the largest importers of narcotics into the United States. They said his family worked with another drug syndicate, the Jerusalem Network, as well as a Los Angeles gang to traffic Ecstasy.
Federal agents intercepted approximately 100,000 pills of Ecstasy at hubs in the Midwest that were destined for distribution in Southern California. The street price for the drugs was about $2 million.
The indictment stated that the Itzhak Abergil and Jerusalem organizations had previously been involved in the largest bank embezzlement scheme in Israel's history and engaged in illegal activities in the U.S. to launder the proceeds of the scheme.
Itzhak Abergil was also charged with racketeering conspiracy to murder Sami Atias, who was gunned down execution style in 2003 in Sherman Oaks, Calif. During his guilty plea, Abergil said Atias was killed for interfering in a drug deal and theft.
Meir Abergil was sentenced to 3 years in prison in 2011, and after time previously served in Israel was accounted for, he was returned to Israel.
Another co-defendant, Moshe Malul, is scheduled for trial Sept. 25 on racketeering and murder. He is accused of hiring members of a street gang to murder Atias.
Another co-defendant, Sasson Barashy, is scheduled for trial Nov. 27 on charges of racketeering, extortion and money laundering.
Two co-defendants in the case remain fugitives: Yoram El-Al and Luis Sandoval.