The former mayor of Kfar Saba was convicted Tuesday of using funds raised for the needy in his central Israeli city for his own personal and political gain.
The Central District Court convicted Yehuda Ben-Hamo of fraud, breach of trust, aggravated receipt of an item under false circumstances, and theft by a public servant.
Judge Ami Kobo ruled that Ben-Hamo had created a “fraud mechanism” by using some NIS 607,500 ($171,000) worth of gift cards and cash — ostensibly raised for the city’s poor — for his own personal needs as well as giving some to his associates, subordinates, household workers and neighborhood activists, both for their own use and to distribute to city residents.
According to the indictment, Ben-Hamo, a member of the Labor party, had enlisted members of his office to gather donations from businessmen and contractors to buy the gift cards.
The indictment says the funds were raised without the knowledge of the city welfare office or treasurer, and that Ben-Hamo did not report receipt of the gift cards to the Tax Authority, nor pay taxes on them.
Ben-Hamo was also convicted of using his position to try to advance the business interests of an associate in the city, Rafi Kahlon, without reporting his relationship with the businessman. However, the ruling said Kahlon didn’t end up receiving any actual benefit.
Ben-Hamo’s lawyer Asher Ohayon said it was “too early” and “inappropriate” to comment on the lengthy ruling before he had time to read it.
The indictment was filed in February 2018. Hours later, Ben-Hamo resigned from his mayoral position.