updated 7/8/2009 1:21:01 PM ET 2009-07-08T17:21:01

A 30-year veteran of the State Department was ordered Wednesday to pay a $5,000 fine for illegally peeking at passport files of famous Americans.

Gerald Lueders of Woodbridge, Va., also was sentenced to one year's probation for looking at more than 50 of the confidential files for celebrities, politicians, media figures and acquaintances.

Two other former State Department employees have been sentenced to a year probation in the investigation. It began in March 2008 after authorities discovered unauthorized access of the files for then-presidential candidates Barack Obama, John McCain and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Prosecutors said "idle curiosity" drove the 65-year-old, who otherwise had a distinguished career at the State Department as a foreign service officer and contract employee. Lueders told the court he was embarrassed and ashamed.

"I meant absolutely no harm when I did this," he said. He apologized and said he recognized his actions increased mistrust of the government.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Alan Kay replied that it was distressing Lueders would violate the public trust after so many years of service.

Lueders now works as a contractor for the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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