November 22, 2018 / 11:04 AM / 23 days ago

U.S.-Israeli man sentenced in Israel over global bomb threats

* A teen at the time, defendant offered threats for a fee

* “Dark web” service targeted airlines, Jewish centres

* Defendant’s mental health issues figured in trial

* Hoax threats made in U.S., Britain, Australia, New Zealand

By Jeffrey Heller

JERUSALEM, Nov 22 (Reuters) - An Israeli-American man was sentenced to 10 years in prison in Israel on Thursday for making about 2,000 hoax bomb threats that forced evacuations of U.S. Jewish community centres and planes to make emergency landings.

The threats, by phone and email were made in 2016 and 2017, and raised concern at the time in the United States that anti-Semitism was on the rise.

Psychiatrists found that the defendant, now 20 but a minor when some of the crimes were committed, was on the autism spectrum and had paranoid delusions. But the Tel Aviv District Court that convicted him in June said he was fit to stand trial after it weighed medical opinions.

In passing sentence, the court said the defendant offered on the “dark web” - part of the Internet accessible only through special software - to make bomb and shooting threats for money, earning about $240,000 worth of the digital currency Bitcoin.

The man, who has not been named in the proceedings in Israel due his status as a minor when the offences took place, has been identified as Michael Kadar in separate indictments in the United States for alleged hate crimes.

The court in Tel Aviv had convicted Kadar of counts that included extortion, disseminating hoaxes in order to spread panic, money laundering and computer hacking over bomb and shooting threats against community centres, schools, shopping malls, police stations, airlines and airports in North America, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Norway and Denmark.

“As a result of 142 telephone calls to airports and airlines, in which he said bombs had been planted in passenger planes or they would come under attack, aircraft were forced to make emergency landings and fighter planes were scrambled,” the court said.

The U.S. Justice Department has said that in early 2017, Kadar made bomb threats against the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish campaign group based in New York and the Israeli embassy in Washington, as well as threatening calls about bomb and gun attacks against Jewish community centres in Florida.

Kadar, who was arrested in Israel in March 2017, is Jewish.

His parents have said he has a brain tumour that causes autism and other mental problems, making him unable to understand the nature of his actions.

“True, the accused is recognised as autistic but he is highly intelligent and understands his actions full well,” the court said, adding that it would have sent him to jail for 17 years had he not had mental health issues.

The court also said Kadar refuses to disclose the password to his Bitcoin digital wallet and its value has since risen to more than $1 million. (Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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