Kfar Saba mayor resigns after charged with fraud, witness tampering
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Kfar Saba mayor resigns after charged with fraud, witness tampering

Yehuda Ben-Hamo allegedly made personal use of funds raised for city

Kfar Saba Mayor Yehuda Ben-Hamo appears at a remand hearing at Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court on February 13, 2017, after he was arrested for suspected corruption. (Flash90)
Kfar Saba Mayor Yehuda Ben-Hamo appears at a remand hearing at Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court on February 13, 2017, after he was arrested for suspected corruption. (Flash90)

The mayor of Kfar Saba was charged on Friday for a series of offenses regarding an alleged scheme to use funds ostensibly raised for the central Israeli city’s needy for his own personal and political gain.

The indictment, which was filed by the Central District State Attorney’s Office, charges Yehuda Ben-Hamo with fraud, breach of trust, aggravated receiving of something under false circumstances, theft by a public servant, witness tampering and tax crimes, among other offenses.

Hours after the indictment was filed, Ben-Hamo resigned, Channel 10 news reported.

According to the indictment, Ben-Hamo, a member of the Labor Party, enlisted members of his office to gather donations from businessmen and contractors that would supposedly be used to buy gift cards for the city’s poor.

Ben-Hamo, however, instead used some NIS 607,500 ($171,000) worth of the gift cards for his own personal needs, while giving others to his associates, subordinates, household workers and neighborhood activists, both for their own use and to distribute to city residents, the indictment alleges.

The indictment says the funds were raised without the knowledge of the city welfare office or treasurer, and that Ben-Hamo did not report the receiving of the gift cards to the Tax Authority or pay taxes on them.

Ben-Hamo is also alleged to have used his position to advance the business interests of an associate in the city, without reporting his relationship with the businessman.

Prosecutors asked the court to release Ben-Hamo on conditional house arrest until May 12.

Last February, the Kfar Saba mayor was among six people arrested on suspicion of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. In August he was summoned to a hearing on those charges.

In December, he was summoned by the State Attorney’s Office for a hearing ahead of Friday’s expected indictment, when he was informed he would be charged with intimidating a witness who testified against him, disrupting court proceedings, violating a legal instruction and committing tax offenses.

Ben-Hamo allegedly committed those crimes in September, after he received a summary of the investigation material against him on previous charges, which include aggravated fraud, deception, breach of trust, theft by a public servant and housing offenses.

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