June 23, 2011 | 3:07 pm
Posted by Julie Gruenbaum Fax
Nathan Wolloch, deputy mayor of Tel Aviv and longtime chair of the Los Angeles-Tel Aviv partnership, was convicted last year of fraud and breach of trust, and this week a Tel Aviv court found the offenses were tainted with moral turpitude and corruption.
Wolloch was forced to step down from his position as deputy mayor.
Wolloch has been involved in the Tel Aviv-Los Angeles partnership since its founding. The Partnership, a program of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and the municipality of Tel Aviv, was the first and largest twinning of Partnership 2000, a Jewish Agency initiative meant to build bridges between Israel and the Diaspora.
The Los Angeles-Tel Aviv partnership brings together residents of the two cities in collaborative efforts. Nearly 40 middle and high schools in the two cities are partnered through a twinning program that includes joint classes by video, common projects and exchanges of delegations. A master class in film brings together filmmakers from Tel Aviv and Los Angeles. Other programs involving the fine arts, social services, and the financial industry are currently on hold as Federation reassesses the program.
Wolloch was charged with fraudulently helping the Moldovan mistress of Tel Aviv businessman obtain a visa.
A year ago, Wolloch was convicted of fraud and breach of trust among other charges. From 1999 to 2001 he registered a Moldovan woman, Anastasia Babkina, for courses provided by the city of Tel Aviv, and fraudulently helped her to obtain a visa to Israel. He did so for the late businessman Reuven Gross, who was having an affair with the woman.
Gross had been facing several charges of using improper means to win municipal tenders to operate parking lots, such as using insider information he received from workers of Ahuzot Hof, the municipal parking-lot company. But the proceedings against Gross were halted when he died three years ago.
The Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court sentenced Wolloch to five months in prison and 200 hours of community service, but ruled his offenses did not involve moral turpitude. The prosecution appealed this ruling, while Wolloch appealed the conviction.
The District Court yesterday upheld the conviction and said Wolloch had abused his authority as deputy mayor to mislead a state authority. Judges Dvora Berliner, George Kara and Miriam Sokolov said it was especially grim “that the appelant helped to bypass a legal state demand, by giving preference on the basis of personal relations…this [practice] is a plague in Israel and the court must denounce it unequivocally.”
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