A leading US space scientist was sentenced to 13 years in prison Wednesday for selling classified material to a US undercover agent he thought was an Israeli spy, the Justice Department said.
Stewart Nozette, 54, entered a guilty plea in September as part of a deal with prosecutors that spared him a possible sentence of life in prison. His prison term was for charges of attempted espionage, conspiracy to defraud the United States and tax evasion.
Nozette agreed to provide classified information from his top-secret work as a government scientist after meeting an undercover FBI agent who persuaded him he was an agent for Mossad, the Israeli secret service.
The classified information he provided "directly concerned satellites, early warning systems, means of defense or retaliation against large-scale attack, communications intelligence information and major elements of defense strategy," the Justice Department said.
He also supplied information about research and development for an unidentified military weapon system.
After being paid a total of $225,000, Nozette allegedly demanded up to $2 million more in a final meeting with the undercover agent on October 19, 2009.
"I gave you even in this first run, some of the most classified information that there is... I've sort of crossed the Rubicon," he said at the time, according to court documents.
He was arrested the following day in Chevy Chase, Maryland, and has been in custody ever since.
In addition to the prison term, US District Court Judge Paul Friedman in Washington ordered that Nozette pay more than $217,000 in restitution to the government agencies he defrauded.
Neither Israel nor anyone acting on its behalf were charged with any offenses in the case.
"Stewart Nozette's greed exceeded his loyalty to our country," said US Attorney Ronald Machen.
"He wasted his talent and ruined his reputation by agreeing to sell national secrets to someone he believed was a foreign agent. His time in prison will provide him ample opportunity to reflect on his decision to betray the United States."
How did the FBI know that Nozette might be willing to steal secrets?
According to Wikipedia and the Washington Times...
Nozette was under investigation by the Justice Department for possible fraudulent billing on a NASA contract by a nonprofit corporation he ran, "Alliance for Competitive Technology.". An unnamed NASA Inspector had allegedly found billing to NASA for expenses including, among other things, three mortgages, nine credit cards, a Tennis club, pool cleaning, and the Mercedes-Benz Credit Corporation. Documents found by the Justice Department while investigating this allegation included classified documents and an e-mail in which Nozette "threatened to take a classified program on which he worked to an unnamed foreign country or Israel." This information was passed along to the FBI.