By CNN's Carol Cratty
A former NASA scientist was sentenced Wednesday to 13 years in prison for trying to sell Israel classified U.S. defense information about military satellites.
Stewart David Nozette, 54, pleaded guilty to espionage in 2011, and in a separate 2009 case he admitted to fraud and tax charges involving more than $265,000 in false claims he submitted to the government in his position as head of a non-profit organization.
According to the government, Nozette received a phone call in September of 2009 from a person claiming to be an Israeli intelligence officer from the Mossad, but who was actually an FBI undercover operative. Nozette told the person he had top secret clearances and said that anything "the U.S. has done in space I've seen."
Nozette, an MIT-trained scientist, said he wanted money for classified information and also required a foreign passport to a country without an extradition treaty with the United States.
The initial conversation led to further contacts and Nozette took $10,000 in cash which the FBI left for him at drop-off sites as part of the sting operation. In return the government said Nozette provided classified material including information which "directly concerned satellites, early warning systems, means of defense or retaliation against large-scale attack, communications intelligence information, and major elements of defense strategy."
Nozette met the undercover operative at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington on October 19, 2009, pushed for larger payments for the secret information and said, "I've sort of crossed the Rubicon," according to the government. Nozette was arrested and has been in custody ever since.
"Stewart Nozette's greed exceeded his loyalty to our country," said U.S. 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."
In September 2011, after Nozette pleaded guilty to espionage, his attorney, John Kiyonaga, called the expected 13-year prison term "a fair sentence." Nozette had faced 30 years to life if convicted at trial.
Nozette's career in government service took him to NASA, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy and to the White House's National Space Council.