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Woman sentenced in plot to steal U.S. nuclear secrets

By Joseph Kolb

ALBUQUERQUE N.M. (Reuters) - A 71-year-old former contractor at Los Alamos National Laboratory has been sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison after admitting conspiring with her physicist husband to sell U.S. nuclear secrets, prosecutors said on Wednesday.

Marjorie Roxby Mascheroni pleaded guilty last year to plotting to pass classified nuclear weapons data to a person they believed to be a Venezuelan government official. Her husband Pedro Leonardo Mascheroni, 79, has also pleaded guilty.

Elizabeth Martinez, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Albuquerque, said in a statement that the sentence was handed down by U.S. District Judge William P. Johnson.

According to court documents, Pedro Mascheroni, a Ph.D. physicist, worked as a scientist at the facility in New Mexico from 1979 to 1988. His wife was employed there from 1981 to 2010, and her duties included technical writing and editing.

Both held security clearances that gave them access to some classified information, including "Restricted Data."

Martinez said in her statement that Restricted Data includes classified material about the design, manufacture or use of atomic weapons, the production of special nuclear material, or the use of that material in energy production.

"The indictment ... did not allege that the government of Venezuela or anyone acting on its behalf sought or was passed any classified information, nor did it charge any Venezuelan government officials or anyone acting on their behalf with wrongdoing," Martinez said.

The couple were indicted in 2010 on charges including conspiracy to communicate, and communicating, Restricted Data to an individual with the intent to secure an advantage to a foreign nation, namely Venezuela.

They were both accused of making false statements, and Pedro Mascheroni, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Argentina, was also charged with concealing and retaining U.S. records with the intent to convert them to his own use and gain.

He is in federal custody pending a sentencing hearing.

(Reporting by Joseph Kolb; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Mohammad Zargham)

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