(JTA) — An executive whose firm was an integral part of Israel’s multibillion-dollar binary options industry, which has scammed millions around the world over the past decade, was convicted of wire fraud by a U.S. court on Tuesday.
Lee Elbaz, the CEO of Yukom Communications, who was arrested by the FBI in 2017, was found guilty of stealing more than $145 million, The Times of Israel reported. The indictment alleged that Elbaz and her subordinates misled investors. Her lawyer blamed her employees for the fraud.
According to The Times, whose English-language reporting on binary options pushed officials to take action, the binary options industry in Israel has brought in up to $10 billion a year over the past decade. Hundreds of local companies have defrauded millions of people worldwide.
Binary options are marketed as a financial instrument that can yield big returns fast. The companies’ websites allowed clients to place bets on whether a commodity, like a stock or trading index, would increase or decrease in value over a short time period. In most cases, though, clients lost all or nearly all the money they invested because the game is rigged. Salespeople regularly used false identities and misrepresent their location, credentials and product. Israel outlawed the industry in 2017.
Elbaz faces a maximum penalty of up to 80 years in prison.