Scientist spy case flushes out hiding place for cash
Oh the hiding places people find for cash.
As the Justice Department argued that former U.S. government scientist Stewart Nozette should remain in jail while he awaits trial on espionage charges, juicy new details emerged about the sting operation leading to his arrest for passing top secret information to an individual he thought was an Israeli intelligence officer but really was the FBI.
Nozette was arrested at the famous Mayflower Hotel in Washington on Oct. 19 but before FBI agents put the cuffs on him, the Justice Department said that he went to the bathroom in the suite and stashed $10,000 in the toilet’s upper tank. (The money was later recovered so don’t bother booking the room.)
The money was meant as a down payment on some $2 million Nozette demanded for handing over details about a classified program that the United States had spent $1 billion to develop and deploy, according to the Justice Department.
Nozette allegedly also sought from the undercover FBI employee an Israeli passport with an alias and he opened a safe deposit box in California in which he stashed three computer drives, eight videotapes, 55 gold South African Krugerrand coins worth roughly $50,000, and $30,000 in savings bonds, the government said. (The Justice Department has said that Israel had no involvement in the attempted espionage.)
Earlier this year a jury convicted a former congressman, William Jefferson of Louisiana, in a corruption case that included $90,000 hidden in a freezer.
To bolster the government’s case to keep Nozette under lock and key until his trial, the Justice Department said its investigation “has revealed that Nozette is a person of means,” noting that he owns several residential properties across the country including a $2 million house in Chevy Chase, Maryland, and a $550,000 vacation home in Merritt Island, Florida.
“No treaty allows the United States to compel the extradition of an individual charged with espionage,” the government’s filing said.
Nozette has held a number of senior government positions and even helped with the development of a radar experiment that helped in the discovery of water ice on the south pole of the moon, the government said. He also worked at the Energy Department’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and held special security clearance.
In January 2009, Nozette pleaded guilty to fraud and tax evasion charges, paying $265,000 in restitution.
- Photo credit: Reuters/Jamal Saidi