American-Israeli accused of anti-Semitic bomb hoaxes had millions in bitcoin

A US-Israeli Jewish teenager accused of making dozens of anti-Semitic bomb threats in the United States and elsewhere is escorted by guards as he leaves an Israeli court after his arrest
JACK GUEZ (AFP)
His mother and father have given television interviews saying their son was ill and not motivated by hatred

Israeli police revealed on Thursday, that the Israeli-American teenager arrested under the suspicion that he had been making dozens of anti-Semitic bomb threats at Jewish Community Centers across the country had a bitcoin account estimated to be worth millions of Israeli shekels.

One million shekels is equivalent to about 275, 000 US dollars.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that the finding raised suspicions that the 18-year-old was being paid in the virtual currency for the threats, though another report alleged he was believed to have sold forged documents online.

His lawyer told the court last week that he has a brain tumor and suffers from autism, highlighting his medical condition as a possible cause for his behavior, leading him to wrongdoing through no fault of his own.

A court on Thursday extended the remand of an Israeli-American teenager accused of making the phone threats in the United States that have stirred a political backlash.

Police said the court in the city of Rishon Lezion extended the suspect's remand until April 18, following his arrest on March 23 after an investigation that included the FBI.

His identity remained under a gag order, though authorities have confirmed he was arrested in the Israeli city of Ashkelon.

In recent days, his mother and father have given television interviews saying their son was ill and not motivated by hatred, adding that they were unaware of his alleged activities and apologizing.

His father had also been arrested as part of the investigation, but has since been released.

The arrests followed a wave of bomb threats to American Jewish institutions since the start of the year, which helped spread fears over whether hate crimes and anti-Semitic acts have been on the increase in the country.

Some have said that the rise of Donald Trump as US president has encouraged the extreme right and emboldened hate groups.

The arrest of a Jewish teenager over the dozens of threats has however complicated the debate.

Police say he is behind a range of threats against Jewish community centers and other buildings linked to Jewish communities in the United States in recent months.

The teenager is also suspected of being behind similar threats in New Zealand and Australia.

In addition, police say he is suspected of a bomb threat to Delta Airlines in February 2015 that led to an emergency landing.

The investigation began several months ago, when dozens of threatening phone calls were receives at public places, events, synagogues, and community buildings in several countries, said the statement.

Israeli police's cybersecurity investigators worked in cooperation with the FBI to locate the suspect.

It said that the investigation was undertaken in cooperation with the FBI "as well as other police organizations from various countries."

(Staff with AFP)

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