Iranian-born engineer gets 8 years in arms trading case

Printed from:

HARTFORD, Conn.  — An Iranian-American engineer who tried to send sensitive U.S. military documents to Iran received a sentence of more than eight years in prison from a federal court judge Friday, after prosecutors called for him to spend 10 years behind bars.

Mozaffar Khazaee, 61 and a former employee of U.S. defense contractors such as Pratt & Whitney, pleaded guilty in February to violating the Arms Export Control Act after he offered sensitive information to schools and officials in Iran while attempting to gain employment there, according to the FBI. The former resident of Manchester, a Hartford suburb, was sentenced to serve 97 months and pay a $50,000 fine by U.S. District Judge Vanessa L. Bryant.

Prosecutors said Khazaee deserved a harsh punishment in light of the volume and sensitiveness of the material he took concerning the Air Force F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program and military jet engines, and for his repeated efforts to send the information to Iran.

“Mozaffar Khazaee exploited his privileged access to national security assets to steal highly sensitive military technology with the intent of providing it to Iran,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, in a statement released by the FBI. “Violations of the Arms Export Control Act, particularly those involving attempts to transfer sensitive defense technology to a foreign power, are among the most significant national security threats we face, and we will continue to leverage the criminal justice system to prevent, confront, and disrupt them.”

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

“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 U.S. 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 sentencing memo. He was accused of stealing the material from companies, including jet engine maker Pratt & Whitney.

Khazaee has 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.”

After growing up in Iran, Khazaee came to the U.S. to attend the University of Oklahoma. He earned a doctorate in mechanical engineering from New Mexico State university in 1994.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.