Jul 17, 2007

Cops Investigating Use of LANL Equipment

ABQ Journal North
Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Cops Investigating Use of LANL Equipment

By Ginger McGuire
Journal Staff Writer

LOS ALAMOS— A contract employee at Los Alamos National Laboratory has
been questioned by police for allegedly embezzling lab property after
admitting she took a monitor and desktop computer home, allowing her husband
and daughter to use the equipment.

Los Alamos police detective Doug Johnson said there is "an active
criminal investigation in cooperation with lab security ... with possible
embezzlement of lab property," though no charges have been filed.

Johnson said Los Alamos police were contacted by lab security personnel
who said Stephanie Romero Maestas, 32, had allegedly obtained LANL property—
a 37-inch monitor and a Dell desktop computer— and converted the equipment
to her own use.

Lab spokesman Kevin Roark said the computer did not contain any
classified information.

The case was referred to Los Alamos police because the lab was concerned
about any possible "unauthorized or improper use of governmental property,"
Roark said. There is still an ongoing internal inquiry into the matter, he
added.

"At this time, based on our internal inquiry, it appears she did have
permission to use the computer," Roark said.

Johnson said police are still unclear about whether Maestas had
permission to use the computer and whether she had permission to use the
equipment at home. He said it is also unclear how she obtained the computer,
which was assigned to another lab employee who has not been reached for
questioning.

"She admitted to taking (the desktop computer) home and converting it to
her own use," Johnson said.

Maestas returned a laptop computer, upon which Johnson said she has
"previous permission to do work from home," and that it was assigned to her
for use. He said it is unclear whether she still has permission to use the
laptop outside of LANL property.

Maestas, a secretary, is a contract employee at the lab, Johnson said.

The alleged incident was discovered after one of Maestas' supervisors
saw a $943 charge for a 37-inch monitor in a stewardship report which she
said she had not previously authorized, Johnson said.

Further investigation showed Maestas had requested a monitor through the
proper supply process to use with the desktop computer, though her request
was rejected because the monitor "was unsuitable due to security
constraints," according to the investigation report.

Contrary to lab policies, Maestas allegedly used her supervisor's
personal identification code, or "Z number," to order the monitor, the
report states. Johnson said contract employees are not authorized to submit
requests that exceed $500.

"We don't have any indication that there was anything subterfuge— that
anybody used deceit— in the procurement process," Roark said in response to
the allegation that Maestas used the code without permission.

The desktop computer was last accounted for on June 3 during a
wall-to-wall inventory, Johnson said. Maestas took the computer home some
time after the last inventory, he said.

During the initial investigation, Johnson said a "supervisor then
compromised the investigation by informing (Maestas) that she was under
internal investigation and that she should return any LANL property that she
had taken home."

She returned her laptop, the monitor and desktop. Johnson said the
desktop was then discovered in the lab's salvage system— where equipment no
longer needed or that is considered surplus is categorized, Roark said.

Johnson said a work request attached to the computer indicated that it
was damaged or worn beyond repair, though technicians were able to determine
that this was not true. He said no one knows how the sticker got on the
computer.

"How in the world did this computer assigned to someone else get turned
in to be destructed, and why?" he said.

Roark said salvage doesn't necessarily mean the equipment will be
destroyed. Items in salvage are thrown away if found unusable, while some
items are sold at auction or used by other organizations such as schools. He
does not know how the computer Maestas had in her possession ended up in
salvage.

The case has been forwarded to the District Attorney's office for review
and for possible prosecution, police said.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

1) Sounds like she is non-exempt. Non-exempts can't take home computers to do work without careful considerations, so as not to violate Labor Laws. There should be a paper trail authorizing work at home.

2) $943 for 37 inch monitor? That sounds way too cheap.

Anonymous said...

Was she Kevin Roark's secretary?

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, only $943 for a gigantic 37 inch LCD monitor, yet LANL property accounting still values 8 year old PCs owned by staff at over $3000. I don't get it?

Anonymous said...

Please, like any one of us should be suprised. This behavior is rampant at LANL at all levels. Which staff member with children at home did not let them use the LANL computer for school work and surfing the net?

Anonymous said...

I think we can safely up the number of laid off contract workers from 300 to 301.

Anonymous said...

The monitor "was unsuitable due to security constraints," according to the investigation report, yet she was still able to purchase it. Did it have USB ports?

Anonymous said...

unsuitable due to security = someone will steal it.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 7/17/07 12:02 PM said...

The monitor "was unsuitable due to security constraints," according to the investigation report, yet she was still able to purchase it. Did it have USB ports?

Monitors with USB ports still have to be plugged into the computer's USB port. The USB ports on monitors are just hubs.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't matter: break out the JB Weld.

Rules are rules, no matter how stupid they are!

Anonymous said...

"a work request attached to the computer indicated that it was damaged or worn beyond repair"

Must have been the JB Weld in the USB port.

Mike Anastasio said...

Note to self: Ask secretary to order another couple of truckloads of JB Weld.

Anonymous said...

This blog looks really good on a 37" screen, I must confess.

Anonymous said...

You can buy JB Weld at Metzgers on a p-card. Watch for coupons in their weekly circular!

Anonymous said...

Contractors are not allowed to NEVER EVER take LANL owned equipment home. Sounds like management is covering up.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who still wants to have LANL property at home or to take on travel must really want to tempt fate. I could not get rid of my laptop fast enough.

Anyone have any idea how many laptops are on LANL's books?

Anonymous said...

According to the article in the LA Monitor she was a former LANL employee who had been terminated for taking items. (BTW this blog was mentioned in that article. As a long time LANL employee who had enough "fun" and left for the "real world" 9 months ago, I find it hard to believe that people are still surprised when something like this happens. I personnaly know of 2 employees who were let go from LANL for various reasons, then returned as LANL employees after the requisite number of years passed. Others who lost Q-clearances for various reasons only to have them reinstated later. Something is wrong with this picture. Jessica Q. was a former LANLite who was hired as a contractor. Since hiring a person takes so long to accomplish can't HR do the back-ground checks properly? The "real world" truly is much nicer that LANL at the present time.

Pinky and The Brain said...

The LA Monitor story does mention us, thanks Carol!

It seems like TA-55 is in the news all the time now.

Anonymous said...

The contractor should be fired, no question.

Her supervisor should also be fired. If not for being dumb enough for letting the purchase through in the first place, then at least for the stupidity involved in giving her a heads up about the investigation.

Their group leader should probably be demoted or preferably fired. I've only seen a few monitors over 37" and if I was a group leader I know I would want to make a point of seeing one during one of those walk-around thingies line mgt is supposed to do but no one ever sees them do.

Then again, $1,000 for a 37" monitor sounds wrong. I bet it was only a 27" monitor, so let's promote that group leader to the first available Div leader opening ASAP.

Anonymous said...

What kind of idiots do we have working here? Clearly not all of us are "The Best and The Brightest!"

Anonymous said...

Sadly, 6:11pm, this has been quite evident for some little while now.

Anonymous said...

When making purchases off of the LANL web pages with JIT vendors, you have to use a Z# plus a crypto-card. Wouldn't she have to do likewise? If so, she would have to have access to her bosses Z# (easy) and the PIN to his crypto-card (harder). Something doesn't smell right about this story. Did her boss give her the PIN to his cryto-card? If not, then how did the order go through. If he did, then this boss is toast.

Anonymous said...

Historically it's been possible to order stuff from JIT vendors over the phone. No Cryptocard required.

Sure are a lot of warts coming out of TA-55 lately.

Anonymous said...

Well, at least nothing important goes on at TA-55, so this should be a non-issue.

Wait, what goes on there?

Anonymous said...

7/17/07 6:11 PM: Generalization is bliss. Do you know that most Europeans consider Americans arrogant idiots because they have watched George W. on TV?

Anonymous said...

I think the whole Division should be looked at real carefully. We have a Chief of Staff that was so jealous of this worker that she herself got this investigation started. She (the contractor) has all the emails giving her permission to purchase this monitor, yet the dingy blond claims she knew nothing. The COA herself has a 30 inch monitor at home as well as a lop top for what? TO DO HER HOMEWORK!!! FOR HER KIDS TO GET ON MY SPACE!! Wake up LANL this contractor never denied any allegations, she had paperwork to purchase. As for kids being on the net and it having personal information, who here at LANL doesn’t have personal information the computers? Sadly 37 inch monitors are not uncommon w/ the SB DO. Almost everyone has a 27 inch or bigger. What S-12 needs to do is go back and look at the student’s hours that work there. They'd swipe in after 8 leave by 3:30 and guess who approved their time, yup T. Dominguez Chief of Staff. On top of that she uses her boss’s crypto card to log in and approve time as well as do his trainings for him. All security needs to do is look at her computer and see how many times she logged in as him. For trainings!!!!!! She'd probably pee for him too. COA’s aren’t able to approve time..... they should also look at her hours since way back in Nov. or Dec. she (Tammy) CLAIMS to work 9/80s on her timesheet but is only there Tues. – Friday and off EVERY MONDAY… Must be nice… Another worker (Greg Smith) marks down 5/8s and is off EVERY Monday and Thursday!! And these hours are being approved, by whom, you guessed it the Chief of Staff; I think I might want to move to SB-DO…NOT, not w/ people like her. I was told that she has a lot of people that hate her now for what she did to her so called friend. Too many haters at the lab the only reason the contractor was snitched on was because many didn't like her for all the attention she received. She's better off she was starting her own business and leaving this place anyhow. As for contractors not being able to take property home then why did she have the approval slip? Why did management allow her? Because SB-DO does what they want and when they get investigated they wipe up w/ the admin? Go figure!

Anonymous said...

And now she's opening her own business.With people with disabilities.What will she steal from them?