New Jersey Man Pleads Guilty in Case Linked to Israeli Military Scandal
NEW YORK (AP) _ A New Jersey man has pleaded guilty in a kickback scheme involving an Israeli engineer linked to a military contracting scandal in his homeland and the Pratt & Whitney division of United Technologies Corp.
Pratt & Whitney is the second large U.S. company embroiled in the case, which has rocked the Israeli Air Force. General Electric Co. was suspended briefly last month from Pentagon jet-engine contracts because of its alleged involvement. G.E. is trying to negotiate a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department.
Benjamin Sonnenschein, 67, pleaded guilty Thursday in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn to fraud charges involving two New Jersey businesses that investigators said he operated at the direction of Israeli engineer Yoram Ingbir.
The two companies received computer software contracts from Pratt & Whitney. Investigators said Pratt & Whitney was directed to award the contracts to the companies at the order of Israeli Air Force Gen. Rami Dotan.
Dotan is serving a 13-year prison sentence after pleading guilty last year to extorting money from U.S. defense contractors.
In the Justice Department’s civil case against General Electric, Ingbir is identified as the conduit for kickbacks from G.E. to Dotan.
According to court papers, Sonnenschein funneled $500,000 received from Pratt between 1988 and 1990 to Ingbir.
The documents don’t say what Ingbir did with the money and he hasn’t been charged with any crime.
Pratt & Whitney and United Technologies officials didn’t immediately return messages left on their office phones Friday night by The Associated Press.
Sonnenschein pleaded guilty to two fraud counts for bringing $50,000 cash to Switzerland without reporting it to the government, and for failing to disclose $261,000 he kept in a Swiss bank account.
Under his agreement, he will receive probation, pay a $50,000 fine and forfeit $2.8 million.
Sonnenschein is described in court papers as a relative of Ingbir.
The Sonnenschein companies received $5.3 million from Pratt & Whitney at Dotan’s direction, The New York Times reported Friday.