HARTFORD, Conn. — Pratt & Whitney said Monday that it is cooperating with authorities after federal agents arrested a former employee for allegedly trying to ship documents relating to the military’s tactical Joint Strike Fighter aircraft to Iran.
The East Hartford, Conn., defense contractor, the sole manufacturer of the aircraft’s engine, declined to comment on how Mozaffar Khazaee, 59, slipped thousands of pages of documents, diagrams, blueprints, and technical manuals out the door before he was laid off in August along with hundreds of other employees.
Federal authorities arrested Khazaee at Newark Liberty International Airport on Thursday before he could board a plane bound for Frankfurt to meet a connecting flight to Tehran, Iran, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Connecticut.
Pratt and the Pentagon are under heightened sensitivity concerning compliance and security issues after the company paid $75 million to settle charges that it violated arms control laws and made false statements about exporting software to China for military helicopters.
Company spokesman Ray Hernandez said in an emailed statement that the company “has been fully cooperating with the government on this matter and will continue to do so.”
The evidence against Khazaee — filed in an affidavit that was unsealed by the court after the arrest was made — shows how authorities learned of his alleged plan to ship dozens of boxes, labeled as household goods, to western Iran on a large container ship.
In October, Khazaee hired a company to ship the boxes from his apartment in Manchester to the port in Long Beach, Calif., where they were to be loaded onto the NYK Libra, according to court documents.
In late November, customs agents at the port inspected the shipment and found the documents, and days later identified them as belonging to three separate companies.
Inside were mainly boxes of documents relating to the military aircraft engines, including the F-35 Lightning II built by Lockheed Martin and what federal agents referred to as the “J136 engine,” which could refer to the F136 engine designed, though ultimately not built, by General Electric and Rolls Royce as an secondary option for the F-35.
The shipment also included cook wear, dishes, an English-Persian dictionary, medicine bottles, college documents, printed emails, an expired Iranian passport, and credit card bills addressed to Khazaee’s Manchester, Conn., residence, according to an affidavit from a federal agent in the case.
The bills and medicine bottles identified Khazaee, but so did his fingerprints, which were found, according to authorities, on the packaging tape on three of the boxes.