Israeli Lawyer Charged In Connection With $500,000 Ransom Demand
HOUSTON (AP) _ An Israeli lawyer has been charged with attempting to collect a $500,000 ransom for the return of a 3-year-old boy who was taken from his mother more than two years ago.
Eliezer Lifshitz, of Tel Aviv, was charged Tuesday with extortion and conspiracy. He was released on a $500,000 personal recognizance bond after appearing before U.S. Magistrate H. Lingo Platter.
The FBI charged that Lifshitz was hired by Zalman Haisraeli, father of the boy, to present the ransom demand to the child’s mother, Dr. Rita Lee, of Houston. The child, Yaniv Haisraeli, and his father have been sought by the FBI for months.
Lifshitz contended in his court appearance that he did not know the whereabouts of Haisraeli and his son.
According to a statement filed by the FBI, Haisraeli was charged by Harris County authorities in January 1984 with interfering with child custody. The following July, the FBI charged him with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.
Authorities contend the ransom demand was made by telephone from Israel on Feb. 21. There also was a demand that charges against Haisraeli be dropped.
The demands allegedly were repeated when Lifshitz met in Houston with lawyers representing the boy’s mother. The money was not paid.
In his court appearance, Lifshitz criticized the FBI and said he was ″amazed″ that agents didn’t wait for payment of the money and return of the child.
″What’s the rush,″ he asked. He said the child’s mother ″made the mistake of her life″ by involving the FBI in the case.
Haisraeli and the child last were reported in Richmond, Va., where Haisraeli applied for a driver’s license. The father was arrested in New York state last August, but a judge set bond at $2,000. Haisraeli paid the bond and disappeared.