An American scientist was sentenced Wednesday to five years in prison and three years under supervised release, after pleading guilty to trying to build nuclear weapons for Venezuela and design a bomb targeting New York City, federal officials said.
Pedro Leonardo Mascheroni offered to an undercover FBI agent, who posed as a representative for the Venezuelan government, he could build 40 nuclear weapons for the South American country within 10 years, according to audio recordings played in a federal court in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Mascheroni worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory from 1979-88, and prosecutors have said he was trying to use what he learned at his work to build the weapons.
Mascheroni, 79, a naturalized US citizen from Argentina, defended himself at the US District Court on Wednesday in Albuquerque, saying that he never gave any real information, but what he was trying to sell was science fiction, according to New Mexico television station KRQE News 13.
Mascheroni and his wife, Marjorie, pleaded guilty to several espionage-related offenses in June 2013 after the duo were arrested. His wife was sentenced Wednesday to a year in prison.