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A former Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist and his wife were indicted Friday on charges of providing classified nuclear weapons information to a Venezuelan government official.
The pair, Pedro Mascheroni, 75, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Argentina, and Marjorie Roxby Mascheroni, 67, a U.S. citizen was also charged with conspiring to participate in the development of an atomic weapon for Venezuela.
The 22-count indictment was returned by a federal grand jury in the District of New Mexico.
The couple was arrested by FBI agents and made their initial appearance in federal court in Albuquerque.
If convicted of all the charges, the defendants face a potential sentence of life in prison.
The indictment does not allege that the government of Venezuela or anyone acting on its behalf sought or was passed any classified information, nor does it charge any Venezuelan government officials or anyone acting on their behalf with wrongdoing.
The indictment also does not charge individuals working at LANL with wrongdoing, according to a press release from the Department of Justice.
“The laboratory has worked cooperatively with federal law enforcement throughout this investigation and will continue to assist as appropriate during the prosecution phase,” said LANL spokesman Kevin Roark. “It would be inappropriate to discuss specific details of the investigation until the completion of judicial proceedings.”
Mascheroni, a Ph.D. physicist, worked as a scientist at LANL from 1979-1988 and held a security clearance that allowed him access to certain classified information, including “Restricted Data.”
His wife 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.”
“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.
The indictment also charges Mascheroni with concealing and retaining U.S. records with the intent to convert them to his own use and gain, as well as six counts of making false statements.
Roxby Mascheroni is also charged with seven counts of making false statements.
“Our laws are designed to prevent ‘Restricted Data’ from falling into the wrong hands because of the potential harm to our national security,” officials said. “Employees at the Los Alamos National Laboratory who have access to ‘Restricted Data’ are charged with safeguarding that sensitive information, even after they leave the lab.”