London — A CBS News investigation revealed a disturbing trend last year of child abuse suspects managing to flee from justice in the U.S. to Israel. One of those suspects, Gershon Kranczer, was finally returned to New York City on Thursday to face charges after more than a decade in Israel. He’s accused of molesting two female relatives, one of them just six years old at the time.
CBS News correspondent Ian lee has investigated these cases for years, and his reporting has had an impact.
Gershon Kranczer is seen in police custody in New York City after being extradited from Israel, March 11, 2021, to face U.S. charges of child molestation.
Activists say people like Kranczer have for decades exploited a process called the Law of Return, whereby any Jewish person can move to Israel and automatically gain citizenship. Our investigation revealed how dozens of accused and convicted American pedophiles have used the process to flee to Israel.
In 2019, Lee and a CBS News crew were there as a private group in Israel went on a stakeout looking for Jimmy Karow, an American wanted for sexually assaulting multiple children.
How Jewish American pedophiles hide from just…11:21
After spending 20 years on the run, police arrested him. He was held over a rape in Israel, but our report broke the news of his detention to one of his alleged victims in America, Kacey Meier-Smith. As he was led away by police, Karow denied to us that he’d abused any girl in America, or that he fled to Israel to avoid the accusations.
Meier-Smith told Lee that she was thankful to see Karow led away in handcuffs, because she had “wanted to see that gotcha moment for so long. But also, I was even more angry, because he denied what he did to me.”
She and her twin Katie were just 9 years old when they met Karow at their neighborhood pool in Clackamas County, Oregon.
“He would make jokes and start poking fun at us, playing games with us. and then touching us and grabbing us and getting us closer. And then he, he sexually abused me and my sister repeatedly,” Meier-Smith told CBS News.
Her family went to the police.
“I remember we had exams as children, and I remember that we also had a grand jury,” she recalled.
Julius Jimmy Karow is seen in a handout photo provided by INTERPOL.
Karow fled before he was indicted, but no one told Meier-Smith. For years she thought he was locked up.
It was a shock, and “very frustrating” when she found his name on the Clackamas County “Most Wanted” list. She felt let down by the authorities and began her own search, eventually tracking Karow to Israel.
“I found him. I found his work even, and I sent it to Clackamas County.” she told CBS News.
It was another seven years before Meier-Smith saw Lee follow Shana Aaronson and her team from the Jewish Community Watch organization as they tracked Karow down south of Tel Aviv.
She immediately reached out to Aaronson.
“They were so grateful that there was somebody out there that had been looking for him and that actually cared about this,” Aaronson recalled.
Soon after our investigation aired, Israel changed its policy and it now requires immigrating Americans to undergo an FBI background check.
“This was a really important step,” Aaronson said. “Not enough to close all the holes, because there are so many people that can get through, through other ways and through other means, and there [are] certainly other efforts that are needed, but this was a very significant step.”
It was a significant step to stop more people like Karow, who last month was sentenced to 13 years in prison in Israel for raping a child, using the Law of Return to evade justice.
But Meier-Smith and her twin sister now want Karow extradited to the United States to face justice for what he allegedly did to them. We reached out to the district attorney in charge, who told us they’re diligently working with U.S. authorities to get Karow back.
Ultimately it will be Israeli authorities who decide whether to hand him over, and there are no guarantees.
Israeli authorities may be reluctant to hand Karow over as he is already serving a 13-year sentence in that country. In addition, had he been accused in Israel of committing the crimes he’s accused of committing in Oregon, the statute of limitations would have expired by now, which could give authorities another reason to deny extradition.