Friday, February 25, 2005

2 Punished for Misusing LANL Funds

Albuquerque Journal North
Friday, February 25, 2005

2 Punished for Misusing LANL Funds

By Adam Rankin
Journal Staff Writer

Apologizing for what they said was a terrible mistake, two men accused of illegally buying more than $300,000 worth of hunting equipment, outdoor gear and television sets on a Los Alamos National Laboratory account were each sentenced on Thursday to serve time behind bars.
U.S. District Judge James Parker sentenced former Los Alamos National Laboratory employee Peter Bussolini, 67, to six months in prison followed by six months of house arrest and $30,000 in fines.
Scott Alexander, 42, was sentenced to one year and a day in prison. He will be eligible for release after 10 months and two weeks with good behavior.
Parker also ruled that the two former highly paid laboratory workers jointly pay $39,401 in restitution to the University of California, which manages the lab for the Department of Energy.
Bussolini, who worked at the lab for 24 years, was a team leader in facilities management. Alexander was part of the facilities management team.
LANL officials have said they have been able to return or put to good use all but about $20,000 worth of items Bussolini and Alexander bought.
The two men were fired in December 2002 after being accused of putting hundreds of thousands of dollars in questionable purchases on the lab's account, giving the items bogus names to make them seem more in line with lab uses. A television was called a "command center monitor"; a picnic table was a "workbench."
A 20-page indictment accused the pair of buying everything from televisions and CB radio equipment to vacuum cleaners and automobile tires between Feb. 1, 2001 and Oct. 31, 2002.
The sentences, with Alexander's potential reduction for good behavior, were slightly below the recommended federal sentencing guidelines of 12 to 18 months, which federal judges no longer have to strictly abide by following a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision.
"I've tried to impose what I feel are fair and just sentences on each defendant, although they are different," Parker said, adding that deciding on the terms was "not a pleasant thing for a judge to have to do under these circumstances­ this is very difficult."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Fred Federici argued that Parker should stick to the minimum guideline for both defendants and that Bussolini should receive the same prison term as Alexander.
"The people would expect the punishment to match the crime," he said. "It wouldn't be just to distinguish between the two of them." Both men "chose to turn a license to purchase into a license to steal," Federici said.
But Parker decided a combination of factors in Bussolini's case favored a lighter prison term. He said Bussolini's age, exemplary work history and community service in the past all contributed to his decision to reduce Bussolini's sentence term, as well as the fact that Bussolini's wife requires care for her diabetic condition.
"I find it most difficult to impose a sentence," Parker said.
Bussolini and Alexander pleaded guilty in October to counts of mail fraud and conspiracy to commit a felony and acknowledged their actions cost LANL $120,000 to $200,000, although lab investigators have estimated that the purchases amounted to much more. In exchange, prosecutors dropped 26 other indictment counts against the two.
As Parker read Alexander's sentence, the former laboratory employee's family and friends muffled sobs. Bussolini's wife, Lee, and son, Jeffrey, sat shoulder to shoulder in the audience, looking on quietly.
Both men apologized to their families, the laboratory and the University of California. Alexander read from a statement, punctuated by tears, and Bussolini made a few unprepared remarks.
"I know better and I want to offer my apologies," to my family, friends and the laboratory, Bussolini said.
"I know better than my actions prove," Alexander said, adding that he was sorry for the harm and embarrassment he brought to his family and the laboratory.
"They trusted me and I failed... for that I am truly sorry," he said through tears. "I do not know if I will ever be able to make it up to them, but I will not give up trying."

These were just ordinary lab guys getting very good salaries given to attract them to LANL - to keep our nation strong. What about their friends, high level managers, who fired the two cops - an action that brought Nanos and maybe worse.
We seem to have conveniently forgotten this affair, an affair still vivid in the memories of the rest of the country.
There are others who never are punished for misusing LANL funds. There are folks who spend money at the end of the fiscal year without a clue as to how to use what they purchased. Too many times I have heard of computer equipment that's purchased with the comment, "I don't what we're going to do with it, but it's all we could get quickly." This is misuse too, but it is never punished. In fact, it's rewarded because all the budget was used so there's no concern about sending money back to DC!

There were several large pallets of construction materials, possibly insulation, sitting outside SM471 at TA-3. Perhaps they were delivered before the shutdown, or maybe even earlier. A week or so ago, they were hauled off, either to the dump or salvage. They had sat outside through a lot of weather, the tarps did not protect them, so they were junked. More waste of money.

Probably everyone who has posted on the blog has a favorite story about misusing money.

Sure Bussolini and Alexander stole from the taxpayers (calling it misuse is sugar coating it) and should be punished. I feel very sorry for their families. I am glad that most of what they purchased was returned and the money refunded. But I can't believe they were able to purchase so much without anyone else being aware of what was happening. And if someone was aware and did not turn them in, that was just as wrong.
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