Scammers Called Up People for Money and Got $50M

Looks like Gilbert Chikli, 54, and Anthony Lasarevitsch, 35, are going to prison
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 11, 2020 7:00 PM CDT
Group Who Used Silicone Mask in $50M Scheme Convicted
In this March 28, 2016 file photo, Gilbert Chikli, 50, and his wife Shirly Chikli, 31, pose for a photo at their home in Ashdod, Israel.   (AP Photo/Oded Balilty, File)

Six guys scammed people out of $50 million—by calling them and asking for it, the New York Times reports. A French court found them all guilty Wednesday of an elaborate scheme to defraud wealthy political, religious, and business figures. It seems Gilbert Chikli, 54, and Anthony Lasarevitsch, 35, masterminded the plot to impersonate a French official over the phone and request money to release hostages in Syria. One sometimes made Skype calls wearing a silicone mask custom-made to resemble the official, former Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, per the BBC. The targets were told that taxpayer money couldn't be used and time was running short. Amazingly, the Franco-Israeli pair pulled it off.

Among the victims: Turkish businessman Inan Kirac (who gave $47 million), Muslim spiritual leader Karim Aga Khan IV (over $20 million), and wine magnate Corinne Mentzelopoulos ($6 million). Luckily several of the 150 targets smelled a rat and contacted French officials. Some payments were blocked in time, but $50 million has vanished in a maze of shell accounts. Chikli and Lasarevitsch got 11 and 7 years, respectively, and face nearly $3.5 million in fines; the others received lesser punishments. There's a movie about Chikli's earlier plot to scam people out of money, for which he got seven years but fled to Israel. This time, he didn't take it well: "It's a scandal," he shouted in court. "You should be ashamed." (More fraud stories.)

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