Israeli-American sentenced to 7 years in US prison over child sexual abuse material

Nimrod Shalom was detained in Israel after messaging undercover agent, released without charges, then arrested upon return to US; fits pattern of Jewish abusers fleeing to Israel

Luke Tress is a JTA reporter and a former editor and reporter in New York for The Times of Israel.

Illustrative: Law enforcement in Los Angeles, November 23, 2016. (AP Photo/ Richard Vogel/ File)
Illustrative: Law enforcement in Los Angeles, November 23, 2016. (AP Photo/ Richard Vogel/ File)

A US federal court has sentenced an Israeli-American man to seven years in prison for trafficking in child sexual abuse material online, after authorities in Israel decided to release him without pressing charges.

Nimrod Shalom, 41, was sentenced last month by the US Department of Justice for transmission of a sexual performance by a minor.

US authorities arrested Shalom for distribution of child pornography and production of sexually explicit images of a minor in July 2021, when he flew from Israel to Los Angeles, California.

He pleaded guilty to the charges in September 2022, in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, in Washington, DC. Shalom grew up in California and is an Israeli citizen by birth.

According to his guilty plea, Shalom contacted an undercover law enforcement officer based in Washington, DC, in August 2016, on the KIK messaging app. The officer had used words on the app meant to attract the attention of pedophiles. Shalom asked if the officer had a child, the child’s age, and whether the officer “played” sexually with the minor. The investigator told Shalom that he had a daughter.

Shalom then said he was sexually active with his own 4-year-old daughter. He sent the undercover officer a suggestive image of a child who appeared to be about that age.

The two continued communicating over the anonymous messaging app. Shalom said he was outside the US, and that where he lived, “no one cares what you do.” He then sent the officer several sexually explicit photos of the child he said was his daughter and asked the officer to send explicit images of the officer’s child for “some fun.”

Shalom was carrying on a second, similar exchange with another undercover investigator in the US at the same time.

US law enforcement sent an emergency request to KIK, due to Shalom’s claims he had abused his own daughter. KIK provided investigators with two IP addresses that were traced to Israel. Officers in the US sent the information to the Israel Police, who tracked the IP addresses to a location in Ramat Gan, outside Tel Aviv.

Shalom was detained by the Israel Police the following day. Investigators determined that Shalom did not actually have a 4-year-old daughter and the images he sent to the undercover officer were believed to have been made in Russia.

Israel Police analyzed Shalom’s iPhone and found 23 images depicting sexual abuse of children, including the photos he had sent to the undercover agent. Shalom deleted KIK from his phone while police were knocking at his door.

Shalom admitted to Israeli law enforcement that he had pretended to be a parent with sexual access to a child to barter child sexual abuse material from others. He also admitted to sending illegal images to other people the day before his arrest.

The Israel Police released Shalom from custody a few days after his arrest and later told the US that he would not be charged, court documents said.

The US federal government issued an arrest warrant in 2016 shortly after Shalom’s conversation with the undercover officer and sought his extradition in 2019, after a lengthy back-and-forth with Israeli law enforcement. A US court document from 2019 listed him as a fugitive.

Illustrative: Police at Los Angeles International Airport, January 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon/File)

Shalom returned to the US voluntarily in July 2021 and was arrested upon arrival.

US investigators also found that Shalom was convicted of a sexual offense in California in 2015. He had solicited his ex-girlfriend to send him nude images of herself and her 2-year-old child, was then arrested, and pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography. He was sentenced to one day of incarceration, as well as five years of probation and counseling.

He moved to Israel the following year, and six months later began his correspondence with the US agent.

While in Israel, he started an online real estate rental company.

Shalom’s move to Israel fits a pattern of Jewish sex crimes perpetrators fleeing their home countries, said Shana Aaronson, the director of Magen for Jewish Communities, an Israel-based organization dedicated to combating abuse, raising awareness, and supporting survivors.

Perpetrators often exploit borders to carry out their crimes or evade law enforcement, including by engaging in “sex abuse tourism,” immigrating to new countries, or moving cities or states. It is not a problem unique to Israel, but the immigration process is relatively easy for Jews, Aaronson said.

“The fact that it is so easy to immigrate to Israel makes it a very attractive option for many people, including people who want to get out quickly,” she said. “And on a social level people don’t ask a lot of questions when you make aliyah,” or immigrate as a Jew, she said.

She has dealt with around 100 cases of sex crimes perpetrators moving to Israel, mostly from the US and also from Canada, Australia, the UK and other European countries. She was aware of Shalom’s case, but was not involved.

Aaronson also said the case was “a sorry indictment of the Israeli prosecutors and its priorities.”

“Unfortunately, it’s not a surprise. Child abuse material is not a major priority,” she said. “The way that Israel in general, in terms of policy… their handling of sex crimes is poor in many respects.”

Most cases are closed due to lack of evidence and sentencing is not stringent, she said.

Sometimes suspects will return to their home countries after arranging a plea deal, she said.

Shalom’s public defendant argued ahead of his sentencing that he was addicted to shocking content online, realized the gravity of his actions, had sought treatment, and had not committed any crimes since 2016. The lawyer said Shalom was assaulted and threatened while in pre-trial detention, and had been subjected to antisemitic harassment, including by an inmate with Nazi tattoos.

Prosecutors said Shalom not only disseminated child sexual abuse material, victimizing those children, but also encouraged the undercover agent to abuse a child, indicating a “level of depravity and callousness that is appalling.”

“His conduct is both extremely dangerous and wholly despicable,” the sentencing memorandum said, adding that criminals like Shalom created an online market and demand for child sexual abuse material, leading to exploitation.

Prosecutors also cited his arrest for abuse in 2015, and said another previous girlfriend reported similar incidents between Shalom and her daughter, indicating a pattern to his behavior.

Investigators in those cases also found hundreds of images and videos of child sexual abuse material on Shalom’s devices, and found instruction manuals on how to abuse children and evade law enforcement.

After his release from prison, Shalom will be placed under legal supervision for 10 years and will register as a sex offender.

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