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Contractor Sentenced in Espionage Case

A Dangerous Betrayal
The Case of the Cash Hungry Contractor


The East Tennessee Technology Park. Courtesy of the Department of Energy.
East Tennessee Technology Park

Two hundred thousand dollars—not a huge sum of money in return for betraying one’s country. But that’s exactly how much money Roy Lynn Oakley asked for when he attempted to sell stolen parts of uranium enrichment equipment to someone he thought was an agent of a foreign government.

Oakley’s contact was an “agent” all right, but not from a foreign country—it was an undercover agent from the FBI.

How it all began. In January 2007, our Knoxville office learned that Oakley—an employee of the East Tennessee Technology Park in Oak Ridge—was trying to sell restricted U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) materials.

The East Tennessee Technology Park was formerly known as the K-25 building, a DOE facility that opened during the 1940s and produced highly enriched uranium used in the manufacture of atomic weapons. DOE later shut down the facility and contracted with a company—Bechtel Jacobs—to dismantle and demolish the plant. Oakley was an employee of Bechtel Jacobs.

Working with DOE’s Office of Counterintelligence, we used sophisticated investigative techniques, interviews, and analysis of records to further pinpoint Oakley as a suspect.

The next phase. To catch Oakley in the act, we began an undercover operation. Our agent contacted Oakley and told him he was representing a foreign government and had heard that Oakley was offering to sell some classified materials. During recorded phone calls, Oakley said he had stolen parts of the uranium enrichment fuel rods and other related hardware items from his place of employment that he was willing to sell for $200,000.

Our undercover agent eventually agreed to the deal, and a face-to-face meeting was set up for January 26, 2007. Both parties showed up at the meeting place, money and classified components were exchanged, and Oakley was ultimately arrested and charged with violating the Atomic Energy Act of 1954.

Oakley’s confession. So why did he do it? Not because of any anti-U.S. ideology. Not because he was angry at his employer. No, he did it purely for the money. Oakley wanted to retire from Bechtel during 2007 but was deep in debt and needed cash.

He told us he took the materials home with him and kept them in a metal box…until he could find a buyer.

In January 2009, Oakley pled guilty to trying to sell these materials. He admitted that he knew the items were “restricted” and that they play a crucial role in the production of highly enriched uranium which is used for atomic weapons (through what’s called the gaseous diffusion process). In June, he was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Knoxville to six years in prison.

Upon Oakley’s sentencing, Knoxville Special Agent in Charge Rick Lambert said, “Bringing to justice the trusted insider who would betray America for private gain remains the FBI’s highest priority.”

- Press release
- FBI Counterintelligence