Netanyahu residence caretaker agrees to plea deal over misuse of state funds
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Netanyahu residence caretaker agrees to plea deal over misuse of state funds

After PM’s wife reaches agreement with prosecutors, Ezra Saidoff, 2nd defendant in the case, comes to an arrangement to pay a fine, perform community service

Ezra Saidoff, former deputy director of the Prime Minister’s Office, arrives to the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on October 7, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Ezra Saidoff, former deputy director of the Prime Minister’s Office, arrives to the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on October 7, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A former caretaker at the Prime Minister’s Residence who, along with the prime minister’s wife, was charged with fraud and breach of trust last year, will admit to a lesser offense, pay a fine, and serve no prison time, according to a deal reached with prosecutors.

Ezra Saidoff was indicted alongside Sara Netanyahu for spending NIS 350,000 ($100,000) of state funds on catered meals while there was a full-time chef on staff.

However, the State Prosecution said Tuesday that as part of a plea deal with Saidoff, similar to Netanyahu, the former public servant will admit to misusing half the original amount, or NIS 175,000 ($50,000).

Saidoff will admit to the lesser offense of taking unfair advantage of a mistake. He will be given a suspended sentence, an NIS 10,000 ($2,765) fine and be required to perform 150 hours of community service.

Last week, Netanyahu was also convicted of the offense of taking unfair advantage of a mistake, as part of a plea deal with prosecutors. The agreement saw her escape a conviction of aggravated fraud, but confess to the lesser charge. She will pay NIS 55,000 ($15,210) — NIS 10,000 as a fine, and the rest as restitution.

The Prime Minister’s Residence is not permitted by law to order prepared food if a chef is present. The two allegedly misrepresented the chef’s presence between September 2010 and March 2013, in order to claim state funds to order meals.

Saidoff’s amended indictment says he “misused his position and responsibility as a senior public servant, while being aware of the procedural limitations on the matter [of catering].”

Sara Netanyahu, wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and her lawyer Yossi Cohen (L) wait for the judge to arrive at the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on June 16, 2019. (Photo by DEBBIE HILL / AFP)

Prosecutors said “the indictment takes into account the fact that Saidoff’s behavior was in acquiescence to Ms. Netanyahu and a willingness to commit criminal offenses in order to appease her.” They also noted that Saidoff took nothing for himself.

But they stressed that Saidoff’s behavior was “entirely contrary to that which is expected of a public servant.”

Netanyahu’s trial is separate from her husband’s legal woes, which revolve around suspicions that the prime minister accepted illicit gifts, took bribes, and tried to arrange favors for media barons in exchange for positive press coverage.

Netanyahu was a suspect in one of those cases, but prosecutors did not recommend she face charges.

The Netanyahus have denied any wrongdoing, and say they are the victims of a political witch hunt driven by a hostile leftist media and the courts.

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