Sentence Upheld For Ex-Lab Worker For Gold Theft

New Mexico – SANTA FE, N.M. (KRWG) A federal appeals court has upheld a one-year prison sentence for a former Los Alamos National Laboratory technician for trying to steal plutonium-contaminated gold.

Alex Maestas pleaded guilty to theft of government property for taking a 2-ounce piece of gold from an area that reclaims plutonium from nuclear wastes. The gold was solder for repairing a device that melts materials containing plutonium.

A radiation monitoring alarm sounded when Maestas tried to leave the lab in March 2009.

A three-judge panel of the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that Maestas was properly sentenced.

A federal district court took into account a sentencing factor for crimes involving the "conscious or reckless risk of death or serious bodily injury." Maestas contended he was unaware the gold was dangerous.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. KRWG