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Woman Named in Los Alamos Case May Have Been Duped

She was accused of trying to buy a car on a lab credit card. Officials suggest she was misled.

June 27, 2003|From Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE — A Los Alamos National Laboratory employee accused of trying to charge a $30,000 souped-up Ford Mustang to her lab credit card may have been the victim of fraud herself, lab officials said Thursday.

Lillian P. Anaya has been on administrative leave from her job as a buyer at the top-secret weapons lab since August after Bank of America officials reported an unusual charge on the woman's credit card.

Often cited in media reports and by members of Congress, Anaya's case evolved into a symbolic example of widespread financial problems at the lab that prompted federal probes and culminated in Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham's decision to put the University of California's 60-year lab management contract up for competitive bid.

But lab and university officials suggested Thursday that a Phoenix-based Mustang company misled Anaya, who thought she was dealing with a scientific equipment company.

Officials said she was charged for the car when she thought she was buying equipment for scientific experiments.

Lab officials also said they have determined not to take any disciplinary action against Anaya in a separate case involving the purchase of more than $800,000 in tools from an Albuquerque business, which was not an approved supplier.

Anaya's conduct in that case "was frankly no different from many others" when it came to procurement at the lab and was being addressed by tightening procurement policies, said John Lundberg, UC deputy general counsel.

In the Mustang case, Anaya's attorney, Dan Cron, said his client was well-versed in lab procurement rules and would never have attempted such an outlandish purchase. He said Anaya had a 30-year "stellar performance" at the lab.

"When you stand back and look at this," Cron said, "it's nonsensical that she would have ever tried to have bought such a thing."

But the vice president of All Mustang Parts and Performance maintains that he spoke with a female lab employee on several occasions in April or May of last year and that the woman knew exactly what she was buying.

"She wanted a car that was hopped and had all kinds of performance parts," Tom Thompson said Thursday during a telephone interview.

A review of the lab's credit card program released in December said telephone records showed a series of calls between Anaya's office and the automobile vendor in May 2002, when the Mustang was charged to Anaya's card.

Lab officials said phone records and documents also show that in early May 2002, Anaya initiated a process to buy scientific equipment from Fluid Conditioning Co. in Tempe, Ariz.

When the company relocated from Phoenix to Tempe, it transferred its old phone number to All Mustang.

"The Mustang company, through a series of phone calls and faxes, subsequently took the order for pressure transducers and, using the laboratory purchase card number supplied by Anaya, processed charges for a Mustang automobile and accessories," the lab said in a statement.

Thompson scoffed at such allegations, saying the woman who called knew she was dealing with a Mustang company.

But Cron and lab officials said they have a copy of an invoice listing the scientific equipment that Anaya sent to a fax number she thought was for Fluid Conditioning.

Cron and Lundberg said they have been told the FBI has dropped its investigation into allegations against Anaya.

Lab officials said Anaya will be reassigned.

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