Israel approves extradition to U.S. of two securities fraud suspects

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel has approved the extradition to the United States of two men indicted in New York on multiple counts of securities fraud that carry lengthy jail terms, Israel’s Justice Ministry said.

Ziv Orenstein (C), who is accused by U.S. authorities of engaging in a stock manipulation scheme involving U.S. penny stocks, arrives at a courtroom at the Jerusalem Magistrates Court July 22, 2015. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Gery Shalon, 32, and Ziv Orenstein, 41, were arrested at their homes in Israel last July after U.S. authorities accused them of engaging in a stock manipulation scheme between 2011 and 2015. Jerusalem District Court agreed on Sunday to an extradition request by New York Southern District Court.

In a statement on Monday, Israel’s Justice Ministry gave no date for the extradition of Shalon and Orenstein, but said the two men had consented to it. Lawyers for the two did not immediately return calls for comment.

According to a U.S. indictment filed last year, Shalon, Orenstein and a third suspect, Joshua Samuel Aaron, had worked with two unnamed stock promoters, one from New Jersey and one from Florida, to run a “pump-and-dump” scheme.

The defendants would acquire shares in thinly traded companies, send millions of spam emails inducing investors to buy the stocks in order to drive up the price, and then sell off their holdings.

U.S. authorities last year said Aaron, a U.S. citizen with residences in Moscow and Tel Aviv, was at large. His circumstances were not immediately clear on Monday.

According to Israel’s Justice Ministry, an amended U.S. indictment in March added counts such as computer hacking and online gambling to the original charges filed against Shalon and Orenstein.

Prosecutors in the United States contend that Shalon, Orenstein and Aaron ran a criminal enterprise that hacked into a dozen companies’ networks, stealing the personal information of more than 100 million people.

In the case of one of those companies, JPMorgan, prosecutors said records belonging to 83 million customers were stolen.

At the time of Shalon’s and Orenstein’s arrest, Israeli officials neither confirmed nor denied any link to the JPMorgan case, and it was not mentioned in the Justice Ministry statement.

Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Dominic Evans