Israeli Yeshiva Student Gets Prison Time in Japan
An Israeli yeshiva student has been sentenced to five years in prison for attempting to smuggle drugs into Japan. The student said he was taken advantage of by a friend and did not know that the suitcase he was carrying contained drugs.
The student's Hebrew name is Yosef ben Ita Rivka. His full name has not been released because he was 17 at the time of the offense. He was arrested along with two friends, also teenagers, with whom he was traveling at the time.
The three contended that they had no intention of smuggling drugs and said they were given false-bottomed suitcases filled with drugs by a man they trusted. They said they thought they were carrying legal antiques.
Drug Pusher 'Lived a Double Life'
The man who allegedly conned the young men into transporting illegal drugs, 32-year-old Bentzion Miller, has been arrested in Israel. Miller, a well-known member of an Israeli Chassidic community, apparently has ties to the Abergil crime family.
Miller “lived a double life,” Israeli police said last month, acting like a religious Jew externally while smuggling and marketing huge quantities of drugs.
Since the arrest of the three students in Japan, several other young hareidi-religious men have come forward and told police that Miller attempted to talk them into transporting suitcases as well.
Israeli officials informed Japanese police that the three young students apparently did not know what they were carrying. In addition, the three young men passed lie-detector tests showing they were unaware that the bags they transported contained drugs.
Yosef Hopes for Early Release, Extradition
Japanese prosecutors asked the court to sentence young Yosef to 10 years in jail, the maximum sentence allowed. Instead the court gave a sentence of five years, the maximum that the young man could have received if the case had been heard in family court instead of criminal court.
The young man expects to be released early due to good behavior. In addition, the 266 days he has already sat in prison will be counted toward his sentence, meaning that he could be out of jail in just over two and a half years.
Senior members of the Chassidic community to which the young men belong are working to have the three extradited to Israel. However, Japanese law does not allow for extradition to Israel, and even if a judge approves to the transfer the law would need to be changed first.
Families of the three young men have asked for prayers for their sons, whose Hebrew names are Yosef ben Ita Rivka, Yaakov Yosef ben Raizel, and Yoel Zev ben Mirel Risa Chava.