WASHINGTON (JTA) — The scientist caught in an FBI spy sting reportedly told a colleague that he planned to flee to Israel or India if he were to face jail time in an unrelated fraud case.
Federal authorities last week accused Stewart David Nozette, 52, of attempted espionage after he allegedly agreed to share secrets in exchange for cash with an FBI agent posing as an Israeli.
The FBI complaint in the spy case said Nozette, a space scientist who among other things had identified water on the moon’s south pole, over his career had contracted with a number of U.S. agencies in which he had top secret clearance, as well as with Israel Aircraft Industries.
The complaint describes Nozette traveling with a computer thumb drive to an unidentified "country A" and quotes him as telling a colleague that should he face jail time in an unrelated case, he could flee to Israel or "country A."
On Monday, the Washington Post, quoting unnamed law enforcement officials, named "country A" as India and said the unrelated case involved overbilling U.S. agencies for more than $265,000. According to the Post, Nozette, who it said had pleaded guilty to the fraud and had yet to be sentenced — faced at least two years in prison.
In another part of the complaint, Nozette allegedly tells the FBI agent posing as an Israeli that he is eligible to flee to Israel under the Law of Return because both his parents are Jewish. In fact, Israel has amended its laws in recent years to facilitate the extradition of criminals seeking refuge under the Law of Return.
The FBI has emphasized that Israel is not involved in the alleged crime.
Nozette has yet to enter a plea in the espionage case.