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In what sounds like an episode of 24: a scientist and his wife have been arrested for allegedly attempting to sell nuclear weapons secrets. The plot included the development of a nuclear bomb over the course of 10 years using enriched plutonium. This time however, Jack Bauer didn't swoop in and get an immediate confession to selling nuclear secrets at gun point.
Instead, the case is headed to U.S. Federal Court, where prosecutors allege that Argentine-born U.S. citizen Pedro Leonardo Mascheroni and wife Marjorie Roxby, a U.S. citizen, attempted to sell the secrets to someone they believed to be a Venezuelan official. Dr. Mascheroni has been a vocal critic of the U.S. government's nuclear policies and has accused federal agents of harassing him for expression his opinion.
However, their contact was an undercover FBI agent. According to the indictment, no nuclear secrets were passed to Venezuela nor did they seek classified information. According to the indictment, Dr. Mascheroni, 75, and Ms. Mascheroni, 67, attempted to trade weapons secrets in for $20,000 in cash up front and and additional $771,000.
The Mascheronis were arrested Friday. Dr. Mascheroni worked for Los Alamos, the nuclear laboratory in New Mexico, from 1979 to 1988, and his wife from 1981 until the federal agents raided their house last year, The New York Times reports. They appeared in Albuquerque, New Mexico to face 22-counts before a U.S. Federal Court. They are facing up to life in prison.
The Times landed an interview from Hugh E. DeWitt, a California physicist who knew Dr. Mascheroni. DeWitt called him a "gullible nut," who had "dug his own grave."
For now we'll have to wait to see what the Mascheroni's and their attorneys have to say about that characterization.
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