(DOJ) Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez for the District of New Mexico, Assistant Director Randall C. Coleman of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division and Special Agent in Charge Carol K.O. Lee of the FBI’s Albuquerque Division announced that Pedro Leonardo Mascheroni, a scientist formerly employed at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), was sentenced this morning for Atomic Energy Act and other violations relating to his communication of classified nuclear weapons data to a person he believed to be a Venezuelan government official.
Mascheroni, 79, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Argentina, was sentenced in Albuquerque, New Mexico, by U.S. District Judge William P. Johnson to 60 months in federal prison followed by the three years of supervised release.
His wife, Marjorie Roxby Mascheroni, 71, previously was sentenced in August 2014 to a year and a day of imprisonment followed by three years of supervised release for her conviction on conspiracy and false statement charges.
“The public trusts that the government will do all it can to safeguard Restricted Data from being unlawfully transmitted to foreign nations not entitled to receive it,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin. “We simply cannot allow people to violate their pledge to protect the classified nuclear weapons data with which they are entrusted. Today’s sentencing should leave no doubt that counterespionage investigations remain one of our most powerful tools to protect our national security. I thank the many people who worked to bring these convictions to fruition.”
“Our laws are designed to prevent ‘Restricted Data’ from falling into the wrong hands because of the potential harm to our national security,” said U.S. Attorney Martinez. “Those who work at our country’s national laboratories are charged with safeguarding that sensitive information, and we must and will vigorously prosecute anyone who compromises our nation’s nuclear secrets for profit. I commend the many agents, analysts and prosecutors who worked tirelessly to bring about the convictions in this case. I also thank the Los Alamos National Laboratory for cooperating fully in the investigation and prosecution of this case.”
“This case demonstrates the consequences that result when those charged with protecting our nation’s secrets violate the trust placed in them by the American people,” said Assistant Director Coleman. “Safeguarding classified material is vital to the public interest, and the FBI will continue to hold accountable those who knowingly and willfully threaten the national security of the United States through the unauthorized disclosure of protected information.”
“America trusts those who work with our country’s classified information to keep it away from those who would harm us. Anyone who betrays that trust for his own gain puts our nation’s security up for auction, and the price for us all could be very high indeed,” said Special Agent in Charge Lee. “Since World War II, the FBI has worked tirelessly to protect U.S. nuclear weapons data, and we are proud of our investigation in this case.”
Mascheroni, a Ph.D. physicist, worked as a scientist at LANL from 1979 to 1988 and held a security clearance that allowed him access to certain classified information, including “Restricted Data.”
Roxby Mascheroni worked at LANL between 1981 and 2010, where her duties included technical writing and editing. She also held a security clearance at LANL that allowed her access to certain classified information, including “Restricted Data.”
As defined under the Atomic Energy Act, “Restricted Data” is classified information concerning the design, manufacture or use of atomic weapons; the production of special nuclear material; or the use of special nuclear material in the production of energy.
Mascheroni and Roxby Mascheroni were indicted in September 2010 and charged with conspiracy to communicate and communicating Restricted Data to an individual with the intent to secure an advantage to a foreign nation, as well as conspiracy to convey and conveying classified information. The indictment also charged Mascheroni with concealing and retaining U.S. records with the intent to convert them to his own use and gain, and both defendants with making false statements.
Mascheroni pleaded guilty in June 2013, to counts seven and eight of the indictment, charging him with conversion of government property and retention of U.S. records, and counts 10 through 15, charging him with making false statements. Mascheroni also pleaded guilty to a felony information charging him with two counts of communication of Restricted Data and one count of retention of national defense information.
In entering his guilty plea, Mascheroni admitted that in November 2008 and July 2009, he unlawfully communicated Restricted Data to another individual with reason to believe that the data would be utilized to secure an advantage to Venezuela.
He also admitted unlawfully converting Department of Energy information to his own use and selling the information in November 2008 and July 2009, and failing to deliver classified information relating to the United States’ national defense to appropriate authorities and instead unlawfully retaining the information in his home.
Finally, Mascheroni admitted making materially false statements to the FBI when he was interviewed in October 2009.
Roxby Mascheroni pleaded guilty in June 2014, to count six of the indictment, charging her with conspiracy, and counts 16 through 22, charging her with making false statements. She also pleaded guilty to a felony information charging her with conspiracy to communicate Restricted Data. Roxby Mascheroni admitted that between October 2007 and October 2009, she conspired with Mascheroni to convey Restricted Data belonging to the United States to another person with reason to believe that the information would be used to secure an advantage to Venezuela. She also admitted making materially false statements to the FBI when she was interviewed in October 2009.
The indictment in this case did not allege that the government of Venezuela or anyone acting on its behalf sought or was passed any classified information, nor did it charge any Venezuelan government officials or anyone acting on their behalf with wrongdoing. The indictment also did not allege any wrongdoing by other individuals working at LANL.
This investigation was conducted by the FBI’s Albuquerque Division with assistance from the Department of Energy and LANL. The prosecution was handled by Senior Counsel Kathleen Kedian and Trial Attorney David Recker of the Counterespionage Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Fred J. Federici, Dean Tuckman and Holland S. Kastrin of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Mexico.
In 2008, a gray-haired nuclear scientist in his 70s took a seat at a small table and laid out an elaborate plan to help Venezuela become a nuclear-armed power.
“You’re a member of the Venezuelan government, right?” scientist Pedro Leonardo Mascheroni of Los Alamos National Lab asked the man beside him, sliding something across the table. “This is a nuclear warhead,” Mascheroni said, according to video released on Wednesday. “I know how to design this.”
“Now picture the following scenario: Picture that Venezuela could have 40 nuclear weapons,” Mascheroni continued, according to a sentencing memorandum presented by the government. “Just 40 — with missiles, and it’s 2020. The United States would not invade Venezuela.”
“You build let’s say 40 or 30 ok? You have your stockpile,” he added. “Now one day there are problems. The United States or this or that. … and Venezuela says, very clearly, ‘We are going to have one test just to let the world know what we got.’ One psssssst there in the middle of the Pacific or wherever.”
Mascheroni said one could be used to knock out New York City’s electricity: “We blow this on top of New York. Nobody dies from the explosion, but we destroy all the electric power in New York with an electromagnetic pulse. The bottom line in all of this is there are some things that I can deliver for sure in 10 years. For instance, I can deliver a bomb.”
He would build the country a bomb, he said, and advised exploding it “to let the world know what we’ve got.” . . . (read more)