Feds: Contractor Tried to Smuggle Military Secrets to Iran
An engineer who spent time working for U.S. defense contractors has been indicted on charges that he attempted to smuggle sensitive military information to Iran, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Mazaffar Khazaee, of Indianapolis, Ind., is charged with two counts of interstate transportation of stolen property, according to the FBI. Each count carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
Federal investigators said that Khazaee, also known as “Arash Khazaie,” first came to their attention in November 2013 when they inspected a shipment he had sent by truck from his former home in Connecticut to California.
Although the documentation for the shipment indicated it contained household goods, the 44 boxes actually held reams of sensitive documents related to the U.S. Air Force’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, according to the FBI and ABC News. The boxes were to be sent to Iran following the stop in California. Authorities said Khazaee acquired the documents from his previous employers, which the FBI did not name.
ABC News reported that Khazaee had most recently worked for Pratt & Whitney in Connecticut.
Investigators arrested Khazaee on Jan. 9 at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, where he was changing planes as he traveled to Tehran, Iran, according to the FBI. He holds citizenship in both the United States and Iran.
The FBI said the documents found in the shipment contained sensitive technical manuals and specification sheets related to jet engines and the F-35 program. The development of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has cost nearly $400 billion, making it the most expensive defense program in history, according to media reports. The project has experienced delays and cost overruns.
According to Reuters, a recent U.S. Department of Defense report found that the performance of the fighter’s software systems is “unacceptable” and that plans for the Marine Corps to begin using the planes by mid-2015 may have to be delayed.
The report, written by the Pentagon’s chief weapons tester, noted that upkeep on the planes has been more difficult than expected and that the aircraft is vulnerable to fires from missile strikes, Reuters reported. The Marines, Air Force and Navy, as well as eight countries that helped pay for the fighter’s development, are scheduled to use the F-35 when it’s cleared, according to the news service.