As we speak, Avi Itzcovich sits in prison and his partner Jack Wygodski is on the run, somewhere in Europe. Their lawyer & facilitator, Moshe Strugano, is under federal indictment in the United States and will likely either be a fugitive or in jail himself. How did three Israeli businessmen get themselves into this situation? The answer is, binary options.
Binary options are a financial product whose objective is to predict the direction of the prices of a given selection of underlying assets. It’s binary because the choice can only be between two options two possibilities on the behavior of the asset – up or down. As a fundamental concept, binary options are legitimate. So why is it that binary options trading became so closely associated with fraud & financial crime?
The demand for this type of investment has grown a lot in recent years and it is easy to explain. First, binary options are deceptively easy to understand, making them a popular choice for low-skilled traders to invest in. Second, due to the poor financial regulation, the market has become saturated with brokers supposedly offering high returns with low risk, who can easily proliferate online & in friendly jurisdictions in Europe & elsewhere where no registration, oversight or licensing is often required.
The binary options industry in Israel, where Itzcovich, Wygodski & Strugano are originally from, is a perfect example. Prior to the 2019 legislation which effectively banned binary options brokers, the binary options industry flourished after 2007. At its peak, binary options brokerages were estimated to be bringing in more than $100 million each month through hundreds of interchangeable companies employing thousands of people and defrauding clients around the world.
After the Israeli government unanimously passed a law to ban Israel’s binary options industry, these operators & their criminal facilitators went elsewhere – Cyprus, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Romania, and Germany.
At the forefront of this fraudulent industry was Avi Itzcovich and Jack Wygodski. Together with Moshe Strugano, they built a carefully crafted network of businesses that operated between 2013 and 2017. Tradorax was one of many fraudulent binary options brokerages with which they duped dozens of victims in North America, Europe, Australia, and the Middle East out of hundreds of millions. They laundered and moved the funds from these fraudulent schemes to their own personal accounts in Israel.
Israeli lawyer Moshe Strugano was the attorney who facilitated the legal advice for opening bank accounts and registering as a merchant with the payment service providers. He was by far the most important Israeli binary options lawyer at the time.
European authorities uncovered the scheme after an extensive investigation, arresting Avi Itzcovich. Jack Wygodski was able to elude authorities & disappeared as an international fugitive, although it is suspected that he remains somewhere within the EU utilizing false documents to remain hidden. His lawyer, Moshe Strugano, is believed to have been helping him to evade authorities, although Strugano’s current legal woes & extradition battle will likely complicate or cease his assistance to Wygodski, making Jack’s incarceration more likely in the future.
All three of these men were clearly intelligent people with business acumen; although they made tremendous profits, their activities have returned to haunt them. It may be a small justice to their victims, the countless lives they’ve ruined, that with these same activities they’ve now ruined their own lives.