A meth lab search-turned-FBI-counterintelligence investigation — one that worried top nuclear security officials in Washington, D.C., about security at the nation's nuclear labs — has come to an end for the contract government employee at the center of the inquiry.
Tuesday, Jessica Lynn Quintana, 23, a former worker at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, pleaded guilty in federal court to knowingly removing classified information from the national security research laboratory, after she took home sensitive documents and data from the lab last year.
Quintana had been granted a "Q clearance," which provided her with top secret restricted data and national security information, as well as access to some restricted areas at the lab. The government has rescinded her clearance status, and she faces a maximum sentence of up to one year in jail, a $100,000 fine, and a year of supervised release, and possible probation of up to five years.
The case against Quintana started Oct. 17, 2006, when police in Los Alamos, N.M., responded to a domestic disturbance at a trailer park, in which they stumbled across a small methamphetamine lab. After a few twists and turns, investigators found themselves smack in the middle of a counterintelligence inquiry.
According to the search warrant in the case, police found drug paraphernalia, several glass pipes and a small propane torch at the scene. Officers obtained a search warrant and arrested Justin Stone, Quintana's boyfriend, on a previous bench warrant.
But police also found several pieces of computer hardware containing information they believed to be from Los Alamos Nuclear Laboratory.
According to a police statement issued last fall, "During the course of the search, officers realized some of the items seized appeared to belong to the Los Alamos National Laboratory. The Los Alamos Laboratory security division was contacted for analysis and confirmation."
Upon this discovery, the FBI dispatched a team of more than a dozen agents to determine how the files wound up in the trailer park.
In the plea agreement filed Tuesday, Quintana admitted that she "knowingly removed documents and computer files containing classified information of the United States from a vault-type room at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and stored such documents and files at places outside Los Alamos National Laboratory, including a backpack in which she transported such documents and materials to her residence, and a computer desk drawer inside her bedroom at her residence."
Quintana was employed by Information Assets Management, Inc. and was under contract to archive classified information at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Officals told ABC News there is no evidence that she passed or sold the information to a third party or foreign government.
Documents obtained by ABC News show a police search recovered three computer memory sticks and a compact disc containing photographs. Quintana had apparently taken the materials out of the lab so she could work on archiving the documents at her home.
In a written statement after the discovery last October, Los Alamos director Michael Anastasio said, "I regard this matter as one of utmost concern to all of us."