Honolulu Woman Sentenced to 90 Days Jail for Removal of Classified Documents from U.S. Embassy
A Honolulu woman was sentenced to 90 days in jail for knowingly removing classified documents concerning the national defense or foreign relations of the United States while working at the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines and retaining them at an unauthorized location.
Thirty-two-year-old Asia Janay Lavarello appeared in the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii on Thursday, Feb. 10, before Chief U.S. District Court Judge J. Michael Seabright who handed down the three-month sentence and a $5,500 fine. Lavarello pleaded guilty to the charge in July 2021.
“Government employees authorized to access classified information should face imprisonment if they misuse that authority in violation of criminal law as Ms. Lavarello did in this case,” said U.S. Attorney Clare E. Connors. “Such breaches of national security are serious violations of criminal law, and we will pursue them.”
According to information produced to the court, Lavarello, a Department of Defense employee, removed and retained numerous classified documents, writings and notes relating to the national defense or foreign relations of the United States without authority. While working as an Executive Assistant at the United States Indo-Pacific Command in Hawaii, Lavarello accepted a temporary assignment working at the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines. There, Lavarello had access to classified computers and documents, and attended classified meetings as part of her official duties.
Court documents list several specific instances in which Lavarello mishandled classified material of the United States.
“On March 20, 2020, Lavarello removed classified documents from the U.S. Embassy Manila,” officials stated. “She took the classified documents to her hotel room where she hosted a dinner party later that evening. Among the guests were two foreign nationals. During the party, a co-worker at the U.S. Embassy Manila discovered the documents, which included documents classified at the SECRET level.”
Lavarello’s temporary assignment in the Philippines was ultimately terminated due to her mishandling of SECRET classified documents.
Around March 28, 2020, Lavarello returned to Hawaii. In June of that year, investigators executed a search warrant at her workplace at the United States IndoPacific Command. In her desk, investigators found a notebook containing Lavarello’s handwritten notes of meetings she attended while working at the U.S.
“The notes contained facts and information classified at the CONFIDENTIAL and SECRET levels,” officials stated. “Investigators determined that Lavarello did not send the classified notebook via secure diplomatic pouch from the U.S. Embassy Manila to Hawaii, as required. Instead, she personally transported the documents to Hawaii, unsecured, and kept the classified notebook at an unsecure location until at least April 13, 2020.”
Subsequently, Lavarello made false statements to the FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service in response to questioning about her handling of the classified material.
“The American people entrust government employees with the responsibility to ensure classified information is properly handled and secure. Ms. Lavarello violated this trust when she removed classified documents from the U.S. Embassy Manila,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Merrill. “Today’s sentencing reflects the FBI and its partners unwavering commitment to keeping our communities safe and bringing offenders to justice.”
“Today’s sentencing of Ms. Lavarello is a reminder that Department of Defense employees have the responsibility to ensure classified information is properly secured. Mishandling classified information places lives and the U.S. National Security at risk,” said NCIS Special Agent in Charge Dominesey. “Ms.
Lavarello violated that trust and was brought to justice through the collaborative investigative efforts of the FBI, NCIS, and U.S. Attorney’s Office.”
The case was the result of a joint investigation between the FBI and NCIS. Assistant U.S. Attorney Mohammad Khatib and Trial Attorney Stephen Marzen of the National Security Division prosecuted the case.