An Iranian-American former defense contractor pleaded guilty to charges that he provided classified information about the U.S. military's fighter jet programs to Iran, media reports said Wednesday, citing the U.S. Justice Department. Mozaffar Khazaee is due to be sentenced in May, and could face up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
Federal prosecutors reportedly said that Khazaee stole information about the engines used in the F35 Joint Strike Fighter and F-22 Raptor while working for three U.S. defense contractors, including aerospace giant Pratt & Whitney. Authorities reportedly said that he tried to obtain a job with state-controlled universities in Iran with the help of the information. The 60-year-old reportedly sent information about the Joint Strike Fighter program to Iran in November and December 2009.
“Mozaffar Khazaee… pleaded guilty today… to violating the Arms Export Control Act, in connection with his efforts to send to Iran sensitive, proprietary, trade secret and export controlled material relating to military jet engines for the U.S. Air Force’s F35 Joint Strike Fighter program and the F-22 Raptor program, which he had stolen from defense contractors where he had previously been employed,” the justice department said on Wednesday, according to Sputnik News.
In one of the emails sent by Khazaee to a person in Iran, he wrote that, "some of these are very controlled ... and I am taking (a) big risk. Again please after downloading these two Power Point files delete everything immediately,” The Associated Press (AP) reported.
Khazaee’s lawyer reportedly argued that his client only wanted to get a job as a professor in Iran, and was not trying to help the Iranian government.
In 2013, the contractor had reportedly attempted to ship thousands of technical documents on the F35 and F-22 aircraft programs. In January 2014, Khazaee was arrested at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey before boarding a flight to Iran. Authorities reportedly said that they seized documents containing information on jet engines in his luggage.
"The illegal export of our military technology compromises U.S. national security and reduces the advantages our armed forces currently possess," U.S. Attorney Deirdre Daly, said in a statement, according to AP. "We will aggressively investigate and hold accountable those who attempt to steal trade secrets and sensitive military technology from U.S. industries, whether for their own personal gain or for the benefit of foreign actors."