Hawaii woman pleads guilty to removing classified documents from embassy, found at dinner party

Two foreign nationals were among the guests at the gathering, federal prosecutors said.

A Hawaii woman employed by the Department of Defense pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday to removing classified material, which were discovered in her hotel room during a dinner party in which two foreign nationals were present, while temporarily assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Manila, Philippines. 

Asia Lavarello, 31, pleaded guilty to one count of knowingly removing classified information concerning U.S. national defense or foreign relations and retaining it at an unauthorized location, the Justice Department said. 

"Government employees are entrusted with a responsibility to ensure classified information is properly handled and secured. Asia Janay Lavarello failed in her duty when she removed classified documents from the U.S. Embassy Manila," Steven Merrill, special agent in charge of the FBI's Honolulu office, said in a statement. 

Lavarello was employed as an executive assistant at the Indo-Pacific Command in Hawaii when she accepted the assignment in the Philippines. On March 20, she took classified documents from the embassy to her hotel room where she was hosting a dinner party that evening, federal prosecutors said. 

Asia Lavarello, 31, pleaded guilty to mishandling classified documents while temporarily assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Manila. 

Asia Lavarello, 31, pleaded guilty to mishandling classified documents while temporarily assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Manila.  (Sgt. Kaylee Clark of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command )

Among the guests at the gathering were two foreign nationals. A co-worker discovered the documents, which included some classified at the "SECRET" level, the Justice Department said. 

Her assignment was subsequently terminated and she returned to Hawaii a few days later. A search of her workplace at the Indo-Pacific Command revealed a notebook in her desk containing handwritten notes of meetings she attended at the Embassy in Manila. 

"The notes contained facts and information classified at the CONFIDENTIAL and SECRET levels," the DOJ said. "Investigators determined that Lavarello did not send the classified notebook via secure diplomatic pouch from the U.S. Embassy Manila to Hawaii, as required."

Fox News has reached out to the Indo-Pacific Command. 

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Investigators said Lavarello personally took documents to Hawaii, unsecured, and kept the notebook at an unsecured location until at least April 13. They also said she included information from the notebook in a January 16. email from her personal Gmail account to the unclassified work account.

She faces up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and $250,000 in fines. She is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 4.