Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, agreed to a plea deal Wednesday in a case concerning illegally ordered meals at the prime minister’s residence, according to a statement released by Israel’s Justice Ministry.
Sara Netanyahu, who was initially charged with fraud one year ago, agreed to plead guilty to the lesser charge of taking unfair advantage of a mistake, the Justice Ministry statement said. She will also pay approximately $15,300 — $12,500 back to the state, and $2,800 in the form of a fine.
A spokesman for Israel’s first lady had no comment.
According to an amended indictment sheet, the case involved the ordering of catered meals delivered to the residence worth a total of about $50,000.
The food was ordered by Sara Netanyahu and Ezra Saidoff, the former manager of the residence, and paid for with state funds.
The orders were illegal under Israeli law because there was a cook employed at the residence at the time, whose job it was to cater for the prime minister, his family and their guests.
Sara Netanyahu also used state funds to pay waiters to serve the meals on weekends and during private events, according to the initial indictment filed last June.
The hand-picked waiters were registered as “extra manpower” or “cleaners” to hide the fact that they were being illegally employed, the indictment said.
Sara Netanyahu faced a maximum sentence of eight years in prison. Her lawyers previously slammed the indictment, describing it as “false and hallucinatory.”
“It’s the first time in Israel and in the world that the wife of a leader is put on trial for food entrees,” her legal team said in a statement. “There was no fraud, no breach of trust or any other felony. The food was not for the Netanyahu family, but for other people, including workers in the residence. We’re certain in the end that justice will speak. Truth and logic will prevail.”
Ezra Saidoff has also reached a plea deal with prosecutors, according to his attorney, Yehoshua Resnick.
A judge is expected to rule on Sara Netanyahu’s plea agreement next week.
The guilty plea comes with far larger corruption cases still hanging over her husband, the prime minister.
Benjamin Netanyahu faces potential charges of bribery and breach of trust in three separate corruption investigations, with Israel’s attorney general calling him for a pre-indictment hearing scheduled for early October.
Netanyahu’s high-powered legal team has sought to delay the hearing and with it the legal process, which could give the long-time Israeli leader enough time to pass an immunity law in the Knesset, effectively shielding him from prosecution.
He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, denouncing the investigations as a media-led witch hunt. — (CNN)