An 80-year-old Holocaust survivor, who's won the lottery 14 times returned Thursday to Israel after fleeing 21 years ago following an indictment on fraud charges.
Stefan Mandel, a Jewish mathematician hit the lottery jackpot for the first time at the age of 24 in his native Romania thanks to an algorithm that he claims took him five years to develop. Following his win, he made Aliyah to Israel where he got married and had two children.
Mandel was wanted by Israeli law enforcement after being convicted of offenses under the Securities Law 16 years ago and was sentenced to 10 months in prison. He did not appear for trial and was labeled a "fugitive from justice."
Three years ago, at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mandel intended to return to Israel, but his wife was detained in London, and the arrival was postponed.
For years, Mandel resided on the remote and tranquil islands of Nauru in the Pacific Ocean, and he returned to Israel after realizing that the international arrest warrant against him will not be immediately enforced.
Mandel intends to submit a request for a retrial, presenting new evidence to support his claim. in his previous attempts to return to Israel, he rejected a proposal from prosecutors to commute the 10-month prison sentence handed to him in 2004 to community service instead.
Now he is taking advantage of the option granted to him by the Supreme Court, which determined that since he was convicted in absentia, he can return to the country without being arrested upon his arrival and request a retrial.
Following a brief stint in the Jewish state, the mathematician and his family moved to Australia, where he became a citizen. In the land down under, he managed to crack the algorithm of the local lottery systems and won the jackpot an astounding 14 times.
He started a business generating algorithms for various lottery systems worldwide, primarily in the British Commonwealth and the United States, which won him an army of clients.
In 1996, Mandel and his associate opened a cooperative lottery business, called "Moon-dragon." The two founders have reportedly convinced thousands of people to financially support their organization in exchange for a chance to win land on the island nation of Vanuatu in the South Pacific.
In the early 2000s, he returned to Israel to replicate his business success but found himself under scrutiny by the Israel Securities Authority. Mandel was interrogated, made bail, and once indicted, he left his wife and children in Israel and fled to London in 2002.
In 2004, Mandel was convicted on fraud charges, as he and his partner failed to provide their investors the actual odds of winning promised and sentenced to 10 months in prison in addition to a NIS 100,000 ($29,000) fine.
For years, Mandel has been trying to appeal the verdict. In 2006, his appeal was rejected by the District Court in Tel Aviv, where it was determined that there were no grounds to discuss his appeal since he was classified as a fugitive.
In 2018, Mendel submitted an additional request for a retrial to the Supreme Court. He argued that he had new evidence that proved the decision to investigate him was driven by invalid motives and conflicting interests. He also claimed a violation of due process, including the non-delivery of the judgment and the verdict in his presence, which was considered exceptional.
Attorney Alon Eisenberg, representing Mandel, said: "You cannot say about someone who has won the lottery 14 times that he is just playing with luck. He has compelling evidence that will undoubtedly lead to a reopening of his case."