FBI foils couple's nuclear arms plan
Published 18/09/2010 | 05:00
A scientist and his wife who used to work at a high-level US energy laboratory were arrested after an FBI sting operation and charged with conspiring to help develop a nuclear weapon for Venezuela.
After their arrest, the two appeared in federal court in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
They dealt with an FBI undercover agent posing as a Venezuelan agent. The government did not allege that Venezuela or anyone working for it sought US secrets.
The pair were indicted for allegedly communicating classified nuclear weapons data to a person they believed to be a Venezuelan government official.
Accused in a 22-count indictment are Pedro Leonardo Mascheroni (75), a naturalized US citizen from Argentina, and Marjorie Roxby Mascheroni (67), a US citizen. Both were formerly contract employees at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
According to the indictment, Mr Mascheroni told the agent he could help Venezuela develop a nuclear bomb within 10 years and that under his programme, Venezuela would use a secret, underground nuclear reactor to produce and enrich plutonium. If convicted, the couple face up to life in prison.