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Jewish Journal

Community Briefs

by Journal Staff

July 25, 2002 | 8:00 pm

Israeli 'E' Ring Uncovered?

Police believe they have broken a major Ecstasy ring, allegedly led by Israeli nationals, with the arrest of 15 suspects and the seizure of more than $8 million worth of the hallucinogenic drug. Capping a two-month investigation centered in the San Fernando Valley, police described the suspects as members of three interlocking circles. Detective Martin Vukotic of the Torrance Police Department's major narcotics unit identified six of those arrested as Israelis, with an additional one listed as a fugitive.

Four members of the first circle are charged with conspiracy to transport and sell the bulk of the seized drugs, between 350,000 to 400,000 tablets, and are being held in lieu of $5 million each, according to Sandi Gibbons, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office. Three of the four were identified by Vukotic as Israelis, brothers Sami Atias, 24; Nery Atias, 28, and Kobi Amsalm, 31. The fourth member is Portuguese.

Police seized a smaller haul of 26,000 Ecstasy tablets from a second circle of seven members, whose individual bail has been set between $200,000 to $270,000. Rafi Shotland, 34, was identified as an Israeli member, with a second, Mordechay Amado, being sought as a fugitive. The nationalities of other members are listed as American, Ukrainian American and Kuwaiti Canadian. A third circle of four members, described as wholesale buyers of Ecstasy, pulled out guns and tried to rob some of the dealers during a transaction gone wrong. Charged with armed robbery and other counts and held on $3.5 million bail each are Israelis Tal Brisman, 27, and Moshe Matsri, 35, along with two American citizens.

Ecstasy, also known as MDMA, is a synthetic stimulant and hallucinogenic that induces a euphoric high and heightens sensory sensations. Use of the drug can result in long-term brain damage, organ failure and death. One Ecstasy pill costs about 50 cents to manufacture in illegal labs, many located in Holland, and can sell for $20 on the street in Los Angeles and up to $40 elsewhere.

Since making its appearance at all-night rave parties of the 1990s, Ecstasy has gained in popularity across the United States. The illegal market is largely dominated by Israelis, say Vukotic and other law enforcement officers, paralleling the Colombian domination of the U.S. cocaine market.

Last year, Sean Erez, an Israeli Canadian, made headlines in New York when he admitted to running an Ecstasy-smuggling ring, in which he employed Chasidic yeshiva students as couriers. -- Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Davis to UC, CSU: Combat Anti-Semitism

Gov. Gray Davis has asked the heads of the University of California and of the California State University to take immediate action against anti-Semitic incidents on their campuses and prevent their recurrence in the future. He proposed a seven-point plan of action in a letter to President Richard Atkinson of the nine-campus UC system and Chancellor Charles Reed of the 23-campus CSU system.

He pointed in particular to incidents at or near the UC Berkeley campus, including an attack on two Orthodox men, vandalism at the Hillel House, an illegal sit-in at Wheeler Hall by pro-Palestinian demonstrators and a spate of anti-Semitic graffiti.

Pro-Palestinian groups at San Francisco State University disrupted a pro-Israel observance, posted blood libels and used their Web site for Holocaust denials. The timing of the letter by Davis, who is running for re-election, puzzled some observers, since the incidents occurred from March through May and the campuses have been fairly quiet since.

Specific requests by Davis to Atkinson and Reed included:

A thorough review of all anti-Semitic incidents on all campuses and actions taken so far in response.

Assessment of planned steps to prevent such incidents in the future.

Review of campus policies governing demonstrations to ensure that free speech does not escalate into violence.

Promotion of such values as civility, tolerance and understanding within the academic community.

A review of course descriptions to ensure "that they are forums for intellectual inquiry and not vehicles for discrimination, intimidation and hate."

Responding for UC, Michael Reese, assistant vice president for strategic communications, told The Journal that Atkinson was troubled by a rise in hate crimes at universities across the country and was working diligently to eliminate such incidents at UC in the future. -- T.T.

LAX Victims Mourned

More than 200 people attended a July 21 memorial service for Victoria Hen and Yaakov Aminov, who were murdered at the Los Angeles International Airport El Al terminal on July 4. The memorial, which took place at the Stephen S. Wise Temple, included speeches by Rabbi Mark Diamond, Federation President John Fishel and Deputy Consul General Tzvi Vapni. The commemoration ended with the singing of the Israeli folk song "Al Kol Ayleh," led by Cantor Linda Kates. -- Gaby Wenig, Contributing Writer

'Muslim' Shooter Jewish?

Preliminary hearings scheduled for July 17 in the case of Jansha Cohen have been postponed while investigators reexamine the evidence. LAPD Detective Jim Willis, who has been investigating the July 3 shooting at Cheviot Hills recreation center for which Cohen was arrested, said "the facts are quite different than they were July 3," and the case is "turning diametrically upside down from where it started."

Cohen, 25, is being held on $2 million bail for the attempted murder of 19-year-old Farzad Sinai, who has been released from the hospital and is recovering at home. Among the discoveries since the shooting and arrest: Cohen originally having been suspected of belonging to a Muslim pride group, "We know now from sources that [Cohen is] Jewish," Willis said, noting "the city is taking it very seriously," using the resources of three LAPD divisions, the district attorney's office and the FBI. -- Mike Levy, Staff Writer

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