Moments before a gang of smugglers managed to sell over a million dollars’ worth of Judaica artifacts stolen from Milan’s most prominent synagogue this past Saturday, police raided the Jerusalem hotel room where the transaction was taking place and arrested the suspects.
The theft, which resembled something out of a heist film, took place last week. The four suspects arrived at the synagogue, pursuing a tip they got about the rare artifacts within. Disguised as innocent worshipers, they waited for the right moment to fill a large bag with crowns, decorative pomegranates and other items made of silver and gold.
Shortly after they returned to Israel with the stolen goods, the suspects began negotiating the sale of the loot. This past Friday, they received a $70,000 advance for the goods from Jerusalem-based Judaica dealers; at this point, their luck took a turn for the worse.
The dealers sent the items for an expert appraisal, where it was discovered that they were stolen from the Italian synagogue. The expert contacted Gili Shmuel, the owner of Focus, a private investigation firm, and told him about his findings.
Shmuel notified the Yarkon District police investigation team, under the command of Chief Superintendent Dudi Bar, who asked the dealers to continue negotiating the deal with the thieves. The buyers agreed to meet with the suspects at Jerusalem’s Ramada Hotel, where they were supposed to give them an installment of $200,000.
The gang arrived at the meeting point, unaware that they were being followed by detectives. Cameras planted on the scene documented the events.
As the deal was about to close, the officers entered the room and arrested the perpetrators. Some of the men, all whom were in their 20s, admitted to committing the crime. According to the police, this was not their first theft, and they are currently being investigated for committing similar robberies at synagogues around Europe.