Engineer sentenced to 8 years for sending documents to Iran

Engineer sentenced to 8 years for sending documents to Iran

Former employee of defense contractors said to have stole and shared materials related to US military

A US Navy F-35 fighter jet during a test flight. (US Navy/Wikimedia Commons)
A US Navy F-35 fighter jet during a test flight. (US Navy/Wikimedia Commons)

HARTFORD, Connecticut — An Iranian-American engineer was sentenced Friday to more than eight years in prison for trying to send sensitive US military documents to Iran as he tried to get teaching jobs at state-run universities there.

Mozaffar Khazaee, a former employee of defense contractors including Pratt & Whitney, pleaded guilty in February to violating the Arms Export Control Act.

Over the span of several years, prosecutors say, Khazaee stole and shared with contacts in Iran materials related to the Air Force F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, the F-22 Raptor and other US military jet engine programs. He was accused of seeking to export 1,500 documents containing trade secrets and 600 documents with sensitive defense technology.

“In materials that Dr. Khazaee sent to multiple state-controlled technical universities in Iran, Dr. Khazaee stated that as ‘lead engineer’ in various projects with US defense contractors, he had acquired material and learned ‘key technique(s) that could be transferred to our own industry and universities,'” prosecutors wrote in a memo calling for a sentence of 10 years in prison.

Iranian-American engineer Mozaffar Khazaee (YouTube screen cap)
Iranian-American engineer Mozaffar Khazaee (YouTube screen capture)

Khazaee, 61, asked for leniency, writing in a letter to the judge from a Rhode Island detention center that he is remorseful.

“I certainly and positively did not mean to hurt the United States or anybody or any company in any shape or form,” he wrote. “I did not have bad intentions, and I am very sorry for my bad judgment regarding these export-controlled items.”

A federal judge in Hartford sentenced Khazaee to eight years and one month in prison and ordered him to pay a $50,000 fine.

After growing up in Iran, Khazaee came to the US to attend the University of Oklahoma. He became an American citizen and earned a doctorate in mechanical engineering from New Mexico State University in 1994.

In November 2013, customs inspectors found sensitive technical manuals and other documents in a shipment to Iran that Khazaee described as household goods, prosecutors said. In January 2014, he was arrested at New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport.

Connecticut’s top federal prosecutor, Deirdre Daly, said Khazaee betrayed his former employers and the national security interests of the United States.

“As this case demonstrates, we will aggressively investigate and hold accountable those who attempt to steal trade secrets and military technology from US industries, whether for their own personal gain or for the benefit of foreign actors,” she said.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press.

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