Federal Eye: Eye Opener: Feds (allegedly) behaving badly

Happy Wednesday! (Unless maybe you live in Rio.) Perhaps it's just unfortunate coincidence, but there are at least four cases of former federal employees in trouble with the law this week for allegedly committing acts against the government. Let's review (in alphabetical order):

• P. Leonardo Mascheroni: Investigators have seized the physicist's property, telling him it's part of a criminal investigation into possible nuclear espionage. He was laid off in 1988 and has ever since championed an innovative type of laser fusion, which seeks to harness the energy that powers the sun, the stars and hydrogen bombs.The investigation appears to center on whether he broke federal rules in discussing his proposed laser with a man who called himself a representative of the Venezuelan government.

• Gale Norton: A federal grand jury has subpoenaed records from Royal Dutch Shell PLC as part of a Justice Department investigation into corruption allegations against the former interior secretary. That's a sign that the investigation has escalated. The investigation focuses on whether Norton violated a federal law barring government officials from overseeing any process that could financially benefit a company that the official is negotiating with for future employment.

• Stewart David Nozette: He's a professor of aerospace at Stanford University who worked for 20 years at NASA. Former colleagues say he worked on the Star Wars project at the Energy Department's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The Justice Department alleges he tried selling classified Star Wars secrets to Israel.

• Richard Lopez Razo: The former State Department employee was a program manager in Iraq. He's charged with accepting tens of thousands of dollars in kickbacks in exchange for steering contracts to Iraqi construction firms, according to court documents. This appears to be the first time a federal employee had been charged in federal court in connection with fraud in the multibillion-dollar U.S. reconstruction effort in Iraq.

Remember: Four criminal investigations of does not signal a trend among current or former federal employees. Still, these cases will likely help feed the negative perceptions of public employees.

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