Israeli-American Who Terrorized U.S. Jews With Thousands of Bomb Threats Jailed for 10 Years

An Israeli-American hacker who terrorized U.S. Jews with bomb threats was sentenced on Thursday by a Tel Aviv District Court judge to 10 years in prison.

The 19-year old was charged with making thousands of bomb threats, including to a United States senator, as well as to airports, schools and Jewish centers in the U.S. in 2016 and early 2017.

The hoax threats forced widespread evacuations and stirred fear of resurgence of anti-Semitism.

The hacker, whose name was withheld from publication, was arrested in March 2017 with the help of the FBI. An Israeli court convicted him in June of all counts committed when he was no longer a minor, from 2016 onwards.

>> Bomb threat suspect’s identity embarrassing for Jews, but ultimately a relief | Analysis ■ LISTEN: This is one of the bomb threats allegedly made by Israeli-American teen against Jewish centers

The Israeli-American JCC bomb hoax suspect, at a hearing in Rishon Letzion Magistrate’s Court, March 23, 2017.Baz Ratner/Reuters

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Among other counts, he was convicted of extortion, conspiracy to commit a crime, money laundering and assaulting a police officer. According to the conviction, he made around 2,000 false terrorism threats from 2015 until his arrest in March 2017.

In addition to the 10-year prison term, the Tel Aviv court gave the hacker a year’s probation and fined him 60,000 shekels ($16,000).

Among his targets was the Israeli embassy in Washington, the Israeli consulate in Miami, Jewish institutions, schools, malls, police stations, hospitals and airlines.

"One can imagine the terror, the fear and the dread that the airline passengers experienced when they were forced to make an emergency landing and when some were injured in the evacuation of the planes," Tel Aviv District Court Judge Zvi Gurfinkel noted, "the major inconvenience and fright caused when it was necessary to evacuate students from schools, following the hoax calls that there were bombs there; and the major public chaos and harm caused by the disruption and cancellation of flights following the hoax calls; the need to dispatch fighter aircraft to accompany the planes as they made an emergency landing, the need for planes to dump fuel over the ocean prior to landing."

The hacker, a resident of the coastal Israeli city of Ashkelon, used advanced technology to disguise his voice and conceal the origin of his calls, including by achieving control over remote computers. Among other things he would pay for the calls using bitcoin, a virtual currency that requires no identification to use.

He allegedly called in threats to schools in central Israel while he was in prison. 

At trial, the hacker did not deny his misdeeds but claimed he could not be held responsible and was not fit to stand trial due to his autism. He told Prison Service officials that boredom was responsible for his actions, which to him had been like a game, and expressed regret.

The judge dismissed the defense’s argument that the defendant was unfit for trial due to a brain tumor that caused autism and other mental problems, and held him responsible for his actions.

The teen was also indicted in the United States earlier this year. In Florida alone, he was charged with making multiple threatening calls about bomb threats and gun attacks against Jewish community centers throughout the state in January and February 2017. He also is alleged to have made bomb threats against the Orlando International Airport and a school. 

Reuters contributed to this report.