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U.S. Nuclear Scientist Caught In FBI Sting Is Jailed For Espionage

Former Los Alamos National Laboratory nuclear physicist Pedro Leonardo Mascheroni was sentenced Wednesday to five years in jail.
Heather Clark
Former Los Alamos National Laboratory nuclear physicist Pedro Leonardo Mascheroni was sentenced Wednesday to five years in jail.

A scientist who worked for the and pleaded guilty two years ago for promising undercover FBI agents he could build nuclear weapons for Venezuela, has been sentenced to five years in jail.

Argentina-born Pedro Leonardo Mascheroni, a 79-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen, told the agents posing as Venezuelan officials that he could design and supervise the building of 40 nuclear weapons for Caracas — including one targeted at New York City — in exchange for an unspecified amount of money.

Mascheroni, who was laid off from Los Alamos in 1988, is heard in recordings telling an agent that the bombs, to be developed over a decade, would keep the United States from invading Venezuela, according to The Associated Press.

The AP says:

"In the recordings, Pedro Leonardo Mascheroni tells an agent posing as a Venezuelan official that the bombs would prevent the United States from invading the oil-rich nation and brags to his wife that the passing of secrets would make him wealthy.

" 'I'm going to be the boss with money and power,' the naturalized U.S. citizen from Argentina is heard saying. 'I'm not an American anymore. This is it.' "

In the recordings played in court on Wednesday, The Guardian reports:

"Mascheroni said his New York bomb wouldn't kill anyone but would disable the city's electrical system and help Venezuela become a nuclear superpower. It was not known how realistic his New York bombing idea was.

"But he suggested that once Venezuela obtained a bomb, the country should explode it 'to let the world know what we've got,' according to the recordings."

Mascheroni's wife, Marjorie Roxby Mascheroni, 70, a U.S. citizen, was sentenced to one year in jail.

At the time of his guilty plea in June 2013, the FBI's Albuquerque Division said the physicist worked for Los Alamos from 1979 to 1988 and "held a security clearance that allowed him access to certain classified information, including 'restricted data.' "

Ms. Mascheroni worked as a technical writer and editor at the laboratory from 1981 to 2010 and also had access to classified information, the FBI said. The couple was indicted in 2010 and "charged with conspiracy to communicate and communicating restricted data to an individual with the intent to secure [an advantage] to a foreign nation. The indictment also charged the couple with conspiracy to convey and conveying classified restricted data."

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Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.
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