A federal grand jury has accused a petty officer of unlawfully taking pictures of restricted areas of nuclear-attack submarine USS Alexandria and trying to sabotage an investigation into his actions by destroying evidence.
The Connecticut-based grand jury returned an indictment against U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Kristian Saucier, 28, on Thursday and U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut Deirdre Daly made public that jury decision today, the FBI said.
Court documents show that Petty Officer Saucier used his personal cellphone to take a dozen photographs of “classified spaces, instruments and equipment” of the submarine when he worked aboard that submarine as a machinists’ mate between September 2007 to March 2012. Some of those photographs showed a close-up view of the reactor core, according to court documents.
Authorities were alerted of Petty Officer Saucier’s suspicious activity not long after he left his cellphone “on top of a pile of trash approximately three to four feet in the middle of a dumpster” at the Hampton-Scotland Transfer station in Hampton, Connecticut, in March 2012, according to court documents. That month, the waste station supervisor found the cellphone, believed it to be discarded and “decided to keep it” to use as his new personal cellphone, court documents show.
Hampton is about 40 miles away from Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, where the USS Alexandria based. Petty Officer Saucier frequently visited the waste station to discard demolition waste, according to court documents.
Federal authorities opened an investigation into the actions of Petty Officer Saucier not long after the waste station supervisor discovered the cellphone and realized that it contained photographs of the insides of a submarine. Both FBI agents and Naval Criminal Investigative Service officials met with Petty Officer Saucier to discuss the photographs, which appeared to spook him, according to a witness cited in the court documents.
Petty Officer Saucier returned home to his apartment after meeting with federal authorities, and asked that witness to close the blinds. He explained to the witness that he was “screwed.” Petty Officer Saucier then began collecting and destroying items that might have been used as evidence by investigators, court documents show.
“Following his interview with the FBI and NCIS, Saucier returned to his then apartment where he collected a laptop computer, a personal camera and the SD card from the camera, took these items to the apartment’s basement, and smashed them with a hammer into several pieces,” court documents show. “Saucier collected these pieces and placed them into a plastic garbage bag, which he then placed into a cardboard box that he left in the basement of the apartment.”
A member of Petty Officer Saucier’s family eventually found pieces of the laptop computer in the woods of Connecticut near the property owned by the petty officer’s family.
Petty Officer Saucier faces one count of unauthorized retention of defense information and one count of obstruction of justice, according to the statement. The two charges combined carry a maximum sentence of 30 years in jail and a fine of up to $500,000, the statement shows.