Another potential link in the Israeli underworld-data theft nexus

Using a Wikileaks cable on organized crime in Israel, Justin Raimondo was able to piece together a connection between a “security company” run by a suspected mafia player and an Indian firm which specializes in “security technologies for identification and monitoring of cell phones, vehicles, structures, computers, infrastructures and WIFI technologies.” Raimondo pointed out that members of Israeli crime syndicates in America have a history of getting access to privileged electronic information, even that of our own law enforcement:

Los Angeles, 1997, a major local, state and federal drug investigating sours. The suspects: Israeli organized crime with operations in New York, Miami, Las Vegas, Canada, Israel and Egypt. The allegations: cocaine and ecstasy trafficking, and sophisticated white-collar credit card and computer fraud. The problem: according to classified law enforcement documents obtained by Fox News, the bad guys had the cops’ beepers, cell phones, even home phones under surveillance. Some who did get caught admitted to having hundreds of numbers and using them to avoid arrest. This compromised law enforcement communications between LAPD detectives and other assigned law enforcement officers working various aspects of the case. The organization discovered communications between organized crime intelligence division detectives, the FBI and the Secret Service. Shock spread from the DEA to the FBI in Washington, and then the CIA. An investigation of the problem, according to law enforcement documents, concluded, ‘The organization has apparent extensive access to database systems to identify pertinent personal and biographical information’ (Fox News, 17 December 2001).

(More about this case can be read here and here.)

Now, it appears that I have found a rather curious connection between a convicted data thief and an international security firm with roots in Israel’s security establishment.

The Golan Group was founded by ex-Israeli Special Forces officers in the 1980s and today proudly proclaims to having more than thousands of employees in scattered throughout Israel, the US and more than “20 countries throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.” Headquartered in Boca Rotan, Florida, the company has taught Krav Maga to federal border agents, produced X-ray machines, provided security for celebrities and guarded gold mines in Central America. Its guards have been implicated in the murder of a Guatemalan man. On the evening of 13 March 2005, a 23 year old man named Alvaro Benigno was killed on his way home from church by two employees of the Golan Group. The men were providing security for the Marlin Project, a gold dig implemented by a subsidiary of a Canadian/US company known Glamis Gold Ltd.

Since this crime, the manager of the Grupo Golan company telephoned the family of the victim a number of times to offer them money in an attempt to ensure that the general public does not find out what happened or that the family does not begin a legal process against the company (Rights Action, 5 April 2005).

Beningo’s father was “understood to be an active opponent of mining in the local area, as [was] his local church.”

Scott Levine is a man who was indicted in 2004 for stealing personal information about millions of people by hacking into the databases of Acxiom, a large company that collects data on consumers and has been itself accused of privacy violations. A DoJ press release announcing the indictment declared that the crime “may be the largest cases of intrusion of personal data to date.” Levine was found guilty in 2005 and sentenced to eight years in 2006. Interestingly, this was not Levine’s first brush with the law. In 1998, the SEC charged him and his wife, Sabrina Levine, with selling unlicensed securities and using “high pressure tactics and illegal means” in the process of doing so.

On 23 July 2004, Scott and Sabrina Levine sold a piece of property in Boca Raton for $3,495,000. The buyers were Yoram and Vered Yasur. Yoram Yasur is listed as the Golan Group’s director and president and Vered Yasur has declared himself an owner of the company on his LinkedIn profile.

Why would the managers of a high profile Israeli-American security firm engage in a multi-million dollar real estate deal with an indicted data thief? Of course, it could just be a coincidence. But considering the precedent set by Israeli spying in the past, we shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions.

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