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LANL scientist under investigation for alleged fraudulent travel claims

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – A longtime scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory with a top-level security clearance is under investigation for submitting fraudulent claims for travel reimbursement, according to federal court documents.

Investigators with the Office of the Inspector General in the federal Department of Energy, of which LANL is part, interviewed the scientist on Feb. 6 and obtained a warrant to search his Santa Fe home last week.

The Journal is not identifying the suspect, who the documents say has “a Department ‘Q’ Top Secret Security Clearance” for his weapons work at the lab, because he has not been charged with a crime.

It was LANL’s Ethics and Audit group that on Feb. 2 reported that the scientist apparently was receiving travel reimbursements for made-up trips, according to the documents.

A LANL investigator provided apparently fictitious or altered receipts submitted by the scientist for airlines, hotels and a car rental company. When questioned earlier this month, the scientist terminated the interview when asked about receipts submitted for reimbursement for a trip last year, says the DOE agent’s affidavit.

The document also says a LANL employee confirmed that the scientist under investigation was not at a lab in the California city that the scientist claimed to have traveled to during the time period covered by the allegedly faked receipts.

The scientist’s house in Santa Fe was searched Feb. 15 and an Apple MacBook and other computer-related items including external hard drives and a thumb drive were seized.

Asked for a comment, a LANL spokesman provided a statement that said, “Criminal investigations are a matter for law enforcement and the Laboratory is fully cooperating with the investigation. The Laboratory takes accusations of criminal activity very seriously, and takes personnel actions, including dismissal, when appropriate.”