Photographer: Akos Stiller/Bloomberg

Oozi Cats or Uzi Katz: From Fugitive to Tech CEO and Back Again

  • Telit boss accused of fleeing 1990s fraud charges in Boston
  • Federal prosecutors say arrest warrant is still valid

As the boss of a successful, if obscure, technology firm serving customers such as Tesla, Cisco, and AT&T, Oozi Cats traveled the world, had a company-funded car and house in Rome, and took home more than 1 million euros ($1.2 million) a year.

It all crumbled last week when the 56-year-old Israeli was identified as a fugitive in a 25-year-old Boston fraud case.

On Aug. 8, Italian newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano reported that Cats, chief executive officer of Telit Communications Plc -- a maker of wireless electronic components -- is actually a fugitive named Uzi Katz. Telit hired London law firm CMS to investigate and said Cats would take a leave of absence, sparking a 33 percent drop in the company’s shares. On Monday, Cats resigned and Telit’s shares jumped by as much as 17 percent.

“It is a source of considerable anger to the board that the historical indictment against Oozi Cats was never disclosed to them,” the company said in a statement.

Reached by text message last week, Cats responded “I am not free to talk at this point in time.” Court filings and other records indicate Oozi Cats and Uzi Katz are the same person.

In 1991, Gary Sherrill was an agent at Resolution Trust Corporation, the government-owned company cleaning up the fallout from the 1980s savings-and-loan association crisis. He received a tip about suspicious property transfers in the Boston area, and teamed up with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to look into the matter, according to an affidavit he wrote that year.

The FBI rigged video cameras in the office of a Boston attorney who was due to speak to one of the buyers, and an agent disguised as a paralegal attended the meeting. A buyer named Ruth V. Katz was purchasing a boxy $125,000 wooden home in the Boston suburb of Lynn.

Wire Fraud

Sherrill said he suspected Katz was involved in a “land flip” scheme, in which the value of a property is inflated to get a bigger loan, according to the affidavit. The case file shows that Ruth Katz was arrested on Sept. 13, 1991 and charged with wire fraud alongside her husband, Uzi Katz. Prosecutors said he had devised “a scheme and artifice to defraud” for “obtaining money and property by means of false and fraudulent pretenses.”

By January 1992, Uzi Katz and an associate called Zaphir Shpitzburg were listed in court filings as fugitives. Ruth Katz indicated through her attorney that she would co-operate, then fled the country. The last docket entry in the case dates to 1999, but the office of the U.S. Attorney in Boston says the charges remain live.

"Uzi Katz was indicted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 1992 and that indictment has not been dismissed," Liz McCarthy, a spokeswoman for federal prosecutors in Boston, said in an e-mail. 

Ruth Katz denied the charges and pleaded not guilty before fleeing, according to her former attorney.

“I believe an arrest warrant is outstanding,” said George Gormley, who represented Ruth Katz and who said he’s had no contact with her since 1992.

Ruth Cats’ LinkedIn page describes her as an “art curator” at Telit. She didn’t respond to an e-mail to her company account seeking comment.

According to federal records, Oozi Cats reported several visits to the U.S. after becoming a fugitive, including a trip to Boston. On a non-immigrant U.S. visa application form filed in 2011, Cats appeared to make no effort to disguise his identity, writing that he also uses the name Uzi Katz.

U.S. Visits

On the form, he lists his wife as Ruth Veronique Cats, who has the same date of birth as the Ruth V. Katz in the U.S. indictment. Cats also reported that his salary at Telit was about
140,000 pounds ($182,000) monthly, or roughly 1.7 million pounds a year.

According to a 2005 press release from Telit, Cats in 1994 started a vehicle-supply chain called Auto Depot Ltd. in Israel and was a director at Hamashbir Mahsanei Ofna Ltd., which Telit describes as a “mass-merchandising” firm. The release says nothing about time spent in Boston.

In a 2005 share placement prospectus, Telit says Cats in 2000 started a company called Dai Israel in partnership with Israeli investment firm Polar Investments Ltd. In 2002, Dai Israel, which developed cellular handset technology, acquired an Italian company called Telit. The revamped company positioned itself as a supplier of components for wirelessly connecting everyday items such as vending machines and rental cars, allowing companies to collect data.

Silver-haired and charismatic, Cats helped the company grow rapidly, and its shares surged sixfold between 2012 and 2015. Two days before Cats’ resignation, Telit said it received its first order from Tesla, which would use the company’s technology in its Model 3 cars.

Polar sold about $35 million of Telit’s shares to the public in 2005 on the Alternative Investment Market, a lightly regulated arm of the London Stock Exchange. At the time, Telit had about $100 million in sales, and its customers included Pele-Phone Communications Ltd., Israel’s third-largest cellular provider.

Telit reached an all-time high of 379 pence in May. A month later, Cats, the company’s biggest shareholder, sold 7.1 million shares -- or a 5.5 percent stake -- netting about 22 million pounds.

It’s unclear who tipped off the Italian paper to Cats’ identity, but Telit has been targeted by short-sellers, traders who benefit from a falling share price. Hedge Fund Ennismore Fund Management has a short position on 6.26 percent of the stock, according to data from the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority. Ennismore declined to comment on its investments.

— With assistance by Chris Dolmetsch

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