U.S. says ex-Pratt & Whitney engineer had already sent information to Iran
HARTFORD, Conn. — A former Pratt & Whitney engineer arrested in December and accused of trying to ship sensitive military documents to Iran had already provided individuals in that nation with information regarding the U.S. military's Joint Strike Fighter program, federal prosecutors said in court papers filed Tuesday.
The filing was in response to a request by the suspect, 59-year-old Mozaffar Khazaee, for release from prison until his trial begins next year. On Wednesday, U.S. Magistrate Judge William I. Garfinkle will hold a hearing on the matter in Bridgeport.
In a memo opposing the request, prosecutors said that Khazaee had, years earlier, emailed documents about the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to individuals at a university in Iran — in one case openly acknowledging the documents' inherent sensitivity.
The documents "are very controlled … and I am taking a big risk," Khazaee wrote in the 2008 email, the government said.
In January, authorities arrested Khazaee at Newark International Airport in New Jersey as he was boarding a flight to Frankfurt, where he planned to connect to a flight to Tehran, according to the U.S. attorney's office in Connecticut. He was found with $60,000 in his carry-on.
Prosecutors said that information uncovered in their investigation "demonstrates by clear and convincing evidence that Khazaee is a danger to the United States because he surreptitiously stole and attempted transport to Iran tens of thousands of pages of extremely sensitive military technology in violation of United States law."
Prosecutors said the government has acquired numerous emails from Khazaee to individuals at a university in Iran, saying in one that he was seeking to transfer "my skill and knowledge to my nation." He also wrote that "as a lead engineer in these projects I have learned some of the key technique[s] that could be transferred to our own industry and universities, if the opportunity arises," the government said.
Khazaee's financial assets, prosecutors said, are such that he could quickly leave the country.
Border control agents found Khazaee's documents in a shipping container in December. The shipment contained documents related to military aircraft engines, including the F-35 Lightning II, the Joint Strike Fighter and what federal agents referred to as the J136, which could refer to the F136 engine designed, and ultimately not built, by General Electric and Rolls-Royce for the F-35.
Khazaee's filing says he worked at various times for GE as a design engineer, at Rolls-Royce as a contract engineer, and at Pratt as a structural analyst. While he worked at Pratt — from January 2011 to August 2013, when he was laid off — Khazaee lived in an apartment in Manchester.
Authorities investigating the case have been told by Khazaee's former employers that he did not have the right to retain the documents that he was found trying to ship to Iran. The government's motion said that the companies confirmed that Khazaee "was in possession of documents that not only related to projects Khazaee worked on, but that Khazaee also possessed documents relating to the JSF program that he had no involvement with."
Khazaee's attorney, Hubert J. Santos, filed the motion seeking his client's release — on $50,000 bond. The motion explained that Khazaee has a "pack rat nature" and acquired the documents because he worked at home on weekends.
"Khazaee believed any materials did not include sensitive information, as it was often very small pieces of information about an almost imperceptibly minor part of a project or contained technology that has since become obsolete," the motion said.
The money found in his carry-on, it said, "was the result of years of modest living and disciplined saving, and was intended, in part, to help his mother pay her medical bills."
The defense argues that Khazaee intended to visit his ailing mother during his visit to Iran. Prosecutors, however, cite an email from Khazaee in which he wrote: "Meanwhile, I am very much trying to wrap-up things with my life in the United States. … My main challenge right now, is my books … which I must ship to Iran before I move there."