(CNN) — A former government contract employee was indicted on charges
of stealing restricted nuclear energy-related materials and putting the United
States at risk, the Department of Justice announced Thursday.
Sources say the classified materials were
taken from the East Tennessee Technology Park.
Roy Lynn Oakley, 67, of Roane County, Tennessee, appeared in federal court in
Knoxville on Thursday.
Oakley was briefly detained for questioning in the case in January, when
authorities first learned of the alleged plot to divulge the materials,
government sources told CNN. He voluntarily surrendered Thursday at an FBI field
office in Knoxville, the sources said.
Oakley is a former employee of Bechtel Jacobs, the Department of
Energy‘s prime environmental management contractor at the East Tennessee
Technology Park, prosecutors said.
The indictment states that Oakley, “having possession of, access to and
having been entrusted with sections of ‘barriers’ and associated hardware used
for uranium enrichment through the process of gaseous diffusion … having
reason to believe that such data would be utilized to injure the United States
and secure an advantage to a foreign nation, did communicate, transmit and
disclose such data to another person.”
The transfer took place January 26, the indictment alleges. Oakley is also
charged with converting the material and “restricted data” to his own use. He
began doing so on about October 17, 2006, and continued through January,
Prosecutors said the materials involved have been examined by scientists and
posed no threat to people who may have come into contact with them.
Oakley’s attorney, Herb Moncier, said outside court Thursday that Oakley’s
job was to break rods “into little pieces” and throw them away. Moncier said
Oakley had a security clearance, but Moncier did not believe it was a high-level
The government alleges that in January, Oakley attempted to sell the “pieces
of scrap” to someone he thought was a French agent — but in reality was an
undercover FBI agent, Moncier said. He said he questions whether those broken
pieces would be considered an “appliance” under the law.
“Mr. Oakley has cooperated fully for the last six months,” said Moncier, who
added that he had traveled to Washington for work on the case.
Each count carries a possible sentence upon conviction of up to 10 years in
prison and a $250,000 fine.
“While none of the stolen equipment was ever transmitted to a foreign
government or terrorist organization, the facts of this case demonstrate the
importance of safeguarding our nuclear technology and pursuing aggressive
prosecution against those who attempt to breach the safeguards and put that
technology in the wrong hands,” Kenneth Wainstein, assistant attorney general
for national security, said in the Justice Department statement.
One government source said the materials involved are not the “crown jewels,”
but they should not have been taken from the facility.
A “barrier” is used to filter uranium during the enrichment process,
according to nuclear energy officials,
but a significant number of barriers are needed to do that job.
Sources told CNN that federal authorities have been following Oakley and
investigating the case for at least six months, after he allegedly tried to sell
the classified material.
Oakley, described as a low-level employee, apparently did not make contact
with any foreign government and is not a foreign agent of any kind, an official
familiar with the case said.
Oakley lives in a mobile home on the grounds of the Oak Ridge
National Laboratory, sources said.
A government official with knowledge of the case said that when authorities
learned of Oakley’s alleged intentions six months ago, the FBI and Department of
Energy launched a joint investigation.
The FBI then developed a sting operation, government officials familiar with
the case said, and authorities intervened before there could be any involvement
of a foreign country.
East Tennessee Technology Park is an area of the DOE’s Oak Ridge reservation
“where we are currently decontaminating and decommissioning buildings that were
last used in 1985,” Gerald Boyd, manager of the DOE’s Oak Ridge site office,
said Thursday. “When they were in use, now over 20 years ago, some of the
buildings at ETTP housed facilities used for the enrichment of uranium.”
Boyd said the technology park and the reservation “are protected by multiple
layers of security systems and detection programs, both visible and unseen,
meant to identify rogue employees attempting to abuse their access and
CNN’s Terry Frieden and Kelli Arena contributed to this