A Hawaii woman pleaded guilty today to one count of knowingly removing classified information concerning the national defense or foreign relations of the United States and retaining it at an unauthorized location.
According to court documents, Asia Janay Lavarello, 31, of Honolulu, admitted to having 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 for the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command in Hawaii, Lavarello accepted a temporary assignment working at the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines. There, she 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.
According to her plea, on March 20, 2020, Lavarello removed classified documents from the U.S. Embassy in Manila. 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 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.
After Lavarello returned to Hawaii, investigators executed a search warrant at her government workplace. In her desk, investigators found a notebook containing Lavarello’s handwritten notes of meetings she attended while working at the U.S. Embassy in Manila. The notes contained facts and information classified at the CONFIDENTIAL and SECRET levels. Investigators determined that Lavarello personally transported the documents to Hawaii, unsecured, and kept the classified notebook at an unsecure location until at least April 13, 2020.
Investigators also discovered that Lavarello included information from the classified notebook in a Jan. 16, 2020, email from her personal Gmail account to her unclassified U.S. Government email account. The information she transmitted over unsecure networks was classified at the SECRET level.
Lavarello pleaded guilty to the charge of unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents or material and faces up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The FBI and Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) are investigating the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mohammed Khatib of the District of Hawaii and Trial Attorney Stephen Marzen of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section are prosecuting the case.