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Ex-Nuclear Lab Whistle-Blower Sentenced

November 5, 2003

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ A former whistle-blower who gained national attention more than a decade ago by noting problems at Oak Ridge National Laboratory was sentenced to 41 months in prison for trafficking guns.

Senior U.S. District Court Judge James Jarvis said he found Charles ``Bud″ Varnadore unrepentant.

``I don’t know if the man has yet to come to the realization he was violating the law,″ Jarvis said at a sentencing hearing Tuesday.

Varnadore, 61, was convicted in July of conspiring to sell guns without a license at flea markets. Assistant U.S. Attorney David Jennings said Varnadore was responsible for illegally selling more than 200 guns.

Varnadore was among 23 people caught last year in a one-year sting operation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that targeted unlicensed dealers at flea markets, gun shops and homes. Federal agents bought more than 600 guns and seized another 1,000 during the operation.

The alleged gun traffickers, most of whom have pleaded guilty, were older men from rural communities, ATF Agent in Charge James M. Cavanaugh said.

Varnadore’s alleged co-conspirator, Anthony McCabe, testified against him and told jurors he sold guns at a flea market supplied by Varnadore. McCabe has since received probation.

The judge refused a request to let Varnadore remain on bond pending an appeal of his conviction and sentence.

As a lab technician at the Oak Ridge lab in the early 1990s, Varnadore was among the first people to draw nationwide attention to safety concerns for workers in nuclear facilities. He later claimed he was the target of hostility and retaliation for his whistle-blowing.

He won several legal battles on that issue but ultimately lost his case on a technicality.

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