A scientist and his wife, who both worked at a U.S. nuclear research facility, have been arrested and charged with trying to sell nuclear weapons secrets to a person they thought was a Venezuelan official.

The Justice Department says Argentine-born U.S. citizen Pedro Leonardo Mascheroni, and his wife, Marjorie Roxby Mascheroni, were arrested Friday and appeared in federal court in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Both were formerly contract employees at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The indictment does not allege that Venezuela or anyone acting on its behalf sought or was passed any classified information.

Prosecutors charged in a 22-count indictment that Mascheroni told an undercover FBI agent he could help Venezuela develop a nuclear bomb within 10 years.

Mascheroni allegedly said that under his program, Venezuela would use a secret, underground nuclear reactor to produce and enrich plutonium, and an open, above-ground reactor to produce nuclear energy.

If convicted, the Mascheronis face a potential sentence of life in prison.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.