The United States Government has arrested an American couple, who were nuclear contractors, for trying to sell nuclear secrets to Venezuela. The husband and wife duo were arrested Friday in New Mexico after trying to sell nuclear secrets to an undercover FBI agent posing as a Venezuelan spy. The couple, Pedro and Marjorie Mascheroni were contractors at Los Alamos National Laboratory; a key nuclear research facility.
Assistant Attorney General David Kris said, “The conduct alleged in this indictment is serious and should serve as a warning to anyone who would consider compromising our nation’s nuclear secrets for profit.” The Justice Department also said in a statement that Venezuela was not part of any wrongdoing.
The husband, Mr Mascheroni, who is now 75 years old was fired from the research facility in 1988 for criticizing nuclear research funding priorities. He was also a “technical writer” and editor from 1981 to 2010 according to documents obtained by the Justice Department. The pair had a wide range of access to nuclear secrets including information on how to develop nuclear bombs.
The FBI has been investigating the pair since 2008 when Mr Mascheroni met an FBI agent posing as a Venezuelan intelligence operative named Luis Jimenez. Mascheroni and the agent met at a hotel in the city of Santa Fe. Mascheroni told the agent that he could help Venezuela develop nuclear weapons and a nuclear energy program over a period of 10 years. He also went as far as describing a potential “umbrella” deterrent strategy for Latin America.
Mascheroni even plotted an attack on the city of New York by telling the agent that after Venezuela conducted their initial test of a bomb that they could drop one above the Big Apple. He said the explosion would not kill anyone but that the EMP (electromagnetic pulse) that would result from the explosion could wipe out the city’s power grid including the NYSE.
Shortly after Mascheronis visit with the agent he informed his wife that he was working on a “secret.” July 2009 was around the time that she was fully informed of the situation and she even helped piece together the secrets in a document that her husband “dead dropped” to the agent. The pair was expecting to be paid for their service to Venezuela in the form of $800,000 and Venezuelan citizenship.
It appears the couples treasonous activity all started when the husband didn’t receive funding and attention for a laser project he was working on. When he was snubbed he started bitching and eventually had his security clearance revoked and was subsequently transferred to another division and then eventually fired.
The Mascheronis were arrested and are now awaiting trial on a 22 count indictment. The indictment charges the Mascheronis with conspiring to communicate and communicating “restricted data” with the intent to injure the United States and secure an advantage to a foreign nation. They are also charged with conspiring to and attempting to participate in the development of an atomic weapon as well as conspiring to convey and conveying classified “restricted data.” Mr. Mascheroni was also charged on another 6 counts of making false statements and keeping classified data for his private use.