Sara Netanyahu signs plea deal in catering case, will pay $15,000 fine
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Sara Netanyahu signs plea deal in catering case, will pay $15,000 fine

After fraud charge dropped, PM’s wife admits to lesser offense of taking unfair advantage of a mistake; aide also to pay fine

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's wife Sara, center, sits in a courtroom in Jerusalem, on October 7, 2018. (Amit Shabi, Yedioth Ahronoth, Pool via AP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's wife Sara, center, sits in a courtroom in Jerusalem, on October 7, 2018. (Amit Shabi, Yedioth Ahronoth, Pool via AP)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, signed a plea deal with state prosecutors on Wednesday morning in a case involving allegations of illegally procured catering services at the Prime Minister’s Residence.

The agreement, which will be presented during the day at the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, saw Netanyahu escape a conviction of fraud, but admit to a lesser charge. She will pay NIS 55,000 ($15,210) — NIS 10,000 as a fine, and the rest to be returned to the state.

A year ago, Sara Netanyahu and Ezra Saidoff, a former caretaker at the Prime Minister’s Residence, were charged with fraud and breach of trust for spending $100,000 of state funds on catered meals while there was a full-time chef on staff.

The residence is not permitted 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.

As part of the plea deal, Saidoff — like Netanyahu — admitted to the lesser offense of taking unfair advantage of a mistake.

Saidoff agreed to pay NIS 10,000 ($2,765) and will be given a suspended sentence.

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)

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit had been eager from the start to avoid a trial, drawing up a plea bargain proposal for Netanyahu even before announcing charges. That deal never saw the light of day.

With the prosecution demanding a conviction, and Netanyahu’s lawyer Yossi Cohen holding out against it, negotiations under arbitrator Judge Mordechai Kaduri, vice president of the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, dragged on for months.

Sara 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.

Sara 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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