Prosecutors are preparing to indict a 26-year-old resident of the ultra-Orthodox West Bank settlement of Emmanuel on more than 100 counts of sex offenses against underage girls, police said in a statement Thursday.
Police said Uriah Assis was arrested last month following a weeks-long undercover investigation by Lahav 433’s cyber unit. Assis has been remanded into custody until the legal proceedings against him are over.
Assis is facing a string of charges that include rape, sodomy, indecent assault, sexual harassment, making threats and the possession and production of child pornography.
Police said Assis had been targeting underage girls online using fake social media profiles for years.
So far, 105 victims have been identified, police said, the vast majority of them are under the age of 18.
“This is an extensive investigation with a large number of victims,” police said in the statement. “The investigation has revealed that serious sex offenses were committed against dozens of minors, some of which were committed when he met the girls in person and some were committed online.”
“It’s hard to overstate the seriousness of this case, which is subject to the most thorough investigation by police possible… who appear to be uncovering just the tip of the iceberg.”
Police said Assis posed as a soldier, police officer, modeling agent, swimming coach or gynecologist to approach the young girls online.
Once he successfully made contact, Assis would convince the girls to send him explicit photos and videos of themselves. Police said that some of the girls agreed to meet him in person, where he sexually assaulted them.
During the probe, Lahav investigators uncovered dozens of fake social media profiles that Assis used to contact the girls. The statement identified the profiles under the names Eleanor Cohen, Anna Issac, Daniel Assus and Sivan Linoy as being his most used.
Assis’s hometown of Emmanuel has gained notoriety in recent years for being a refuge for ultra-Orthodox Jews accused of sex offenses.
The small ultra-Orthodox settlement in the northern West Bank is home to Malka Leifer, a former school principal from Australia accused of 74 counts of sexual assault involving her female students, who settled in Emmanuel in 2016 after an Israeli judge determined she was mentally unfit to face extradition.
Despite the allegations of abuse, residents of Emmanuel have been accused of helping shield Leifer from authorities, and even briefly gave her a job at one of the schools in the settlement.
Leifer was removed from her teaching post after less than a year, but school officials and the community’s chief rabbi insisted she had done nothing wrong.
Last year, an Emmanuel resident told the Sydney Morning Herald that Leifer had recently tried to molest his daughter after offering to privately tutor her.
The Herald at the time also reported that a convicted child molester named Yehiel Shinin had moved to Emmanuel shortly after being released from prison, telling residents that he wanted “to start a new life.” However, he was rearrested shortly afterwards amid accusations that he sexually abused a 12-year-old resident of the settlement.