msnbc.com news services
updated 9/22/2008 3:17:42 PM ET 2008-09-22T19:17:42

A State Department contractor has pleaded guilty to illegally looking at the passport information of nearly 200 celebrities, athletes, actors and politicians over a three-year period.

The U.S. Justice Department said Lawrence Yontz, 48, of Arlington, Va., pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of unauthorized computer access, a misdemeanor. He faces up to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine at his sentencing scheduled for December 19.

Several contract workers have been fired since it came to light that the passport records of presidential candidates had been breached.

Yontz admitted that between February 2005 and March 2008 he viewed passport applications of about 200 celebrities, athletes, actors, politicians and their immediate families, musicians, game show contestants, members of the news media, prominent business professionals, colleagues and neighbors.

Those whose files were accessed were not identified.

Yontz admitted he had no official government reason to access and view the passport applications, but that his sole purpose in doing it was idle curiosity, Justice Department officials said.

Between September 1987 and April 1996, Yontz served as a State Department foreign service officer. He returned to the department as a contract employee in January 2004 to work as an intelligence analyst within the Bureau of Intelligence and Research.

The case was brought by the Justice Department after an investigation by the State Department's Office of Inspector General following the disclosure in March that the files of three presidential candidates had been improperly accessed, including Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain.

Information from Reuters and The Associated Press is included in this report.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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