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Following a lengthy FBI investigation, a U.S. District Court grand jury Thursday indicted former Los Alamos National Laboratory employee Alex Maestas.
According to court documents, Maestas is facing two Level 4 offenses. Count one references the theft of government property and count two involves the theft of nuclear material.
Last March LANL’s multiple layers of security at the Plutonium Processing Facility at Technical Area 55 where Maestas worked stopped the alleged theft.
He reportedly worked at the laboratory for more than 20 years and according to reports attempted to pilfer gold out of the plutonium facility undetected.
He was caught carrying an estimated $2,000 worth of the gold shavings in a plastic sandwich bag concealed inside his clutched fist.
It’s not yet clear where the count of stealing nuclear material comes into play other than the fact that the gold did contain a small amount of radioactive material, according to LANL.
This morning LANL Communication’s Office Director Jeff Berger provided a recap of the incident in the interest of ensuring accuracy, he said.
· In March of this year, the employee was discovered attempting to improperly remove approximately two ounces of gold, contaminated with a small amount of radioactive material, at a laboratory nuclear facility;
· The gold was detected through radiological signature of the contamination and the employee was immediately stopped prior to attempting to leave an internal work area. The person in question is no longer employed by the laboratory;
· Officials at the lab facility successfully conducted a full inventory of all precious metals without any issues;
· There was no exposure or uptake associated with this event, as determined by a full radiological survey;
· The laboratory facility relies on a series of administrative and engineered controls and checkpoints that assure no nuclear materials, precious metals, or other government property are allowed to exit the facility without proper authorization; and
· A variety of precious metals are used at Los Alamos both in the electrochemical purification of plutonium and as substitutes for nuclear materials in certain experiments.
Maestas is scheduled to be arraigned in U.S. District Court on Oct. 22 in Albuquerque.