Bringing a bizarre case of would-be espionage to a close, former Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist P. Leonardo Mascheroni was sentenced to five years in prison Wednesday for trying to pass classified nuclear weapons information to a man he believed to be a Venezuelan government official.
The couple’s actions as described by federal agents often sounded like a James Bond movie plot. Leonardo Mascheroni, now 80, was alleged to have told an FBI officer masquerading as a Venezuelan agent that he could help Venezuela develop a nuclear bomb in 10 years and 40 missiles with nuclear warheads in 20 years.
According to court documents from the indictments of the Mascheronis in 2010, he also suggested an explosion over New York that could produce an “electromagnetic pulse” to knock out the metropolis’ electrical power and a laser that could blind satellites; in Venezuela, a secret underground reactor for enriching uranium and another subterranean facility for undetectable tests of “microbombs”; and making Venezuela Latin America’s defense “umbrella,” able to retaliate against attacks with nuclear bombs.
In 2009, after federal agents raided his Los Alamos home, Mascheroni acknowledged that he had received $20,000 from a man claiming to represent Venezuela in return for a report on how Venezuela could develop “a nuclear deterrent” that he hoped would show then-President Hugo Chavez that a nuclear weapons program was impractical.
He maintained then that all of the information was unclassified from the Internet and contained nothing that could help Venezuela develop a nuclear weapon. The Mascheronis and their attorneys couldn’t be reached Friday, after the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced the guilty pleas late in the day.
Full article: Former LANL scientist sentenced to five years for attempt to sell nuclear secrets (Albuquerque News Journal)