LOS ANGELES (CNS) – A Tarzana man linked to an Israeli organized crime ring was sentenced to 32 years in federal prison for money laundering and international drug trafficking.
Moshe Matsri, 48, was found guilty by a Los Angeles 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 kilos of cocaine, attempted possession with intent to distribute at least five kilos of cocaine and conspiracy to commit extortion, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Matsri was convicted pursuant to a grand jury indictment that outlined his 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, prosecutors said.
Matsri, who is also known as “Moshe the Religious,” has significant ties to the Abergil organized crime family, which is based in Israel and operates internationally, according to federal prosecutors.
He 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 pre-sentencing memo for Paniry.
In a hearing Thursday, U.S. District Judge S. James Otero sentenced Paniry to 17 1/2 years in federal prison.
Matsri and Paniry have been in custody since July 12, 2013, when they and several others were arrested as the result of an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI 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 pre-sentencing memorandum. “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 memo, which outlines how Matsri “used a network of trusted individuals to bypass the financial system entirely … to move cash instantaneously from New York to Los Angeles, and from Vancouver to Los Angeles.”
Evidence presented at trial showed that Matsri agreed to help two undercover agents 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, federal prosecutors said.
Additionally, 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 Sept. 1;
— Yaron Cohen, 45, of Amsterdam, who is scheduled to go on trial on April 12;
— Ibrahim Oter, 64, of Brussels, who is scheduled to go on trial on Sept. 12;
— Nisim Sabag, 38, of Los Angeles, who pled guilty to extortion and was sentenced to about a year in jail;
— 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 nearly 3 1/2 years in prison.