Jul 14, 2014
04:22 PMThe Connecticut Story
Connecticut Spy Case: Alleged Seller of Intel Bound for Iran Denied Bail
In this image released by the U.S. Navy courtesy of Lockheed Martin, the U.S. Navy variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35C, conducts a test flight February 11, 2011 over the Chesapeake Bay.
The trial of Mozaffar Khazaee, a former Pratt & Whitney employee accused of attempting to send sensitive documents to Iran, has been postponed until the spring of 2015 and a federal judge has denied his request to be released on bail before the trial.
Khazaee (below), who once lived in Manchester, Conn., was arrested on Jan. 9 after he flew from Indianapolis to Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, where he was scheduled to board a connecting flight to Frankfurt, Germany, and then take another connecting flight to Tehran, Iran.
In his carry-on bag the native of Iran had just under $60,000 in cash and he allegedly had previously arranged to ship thousands of engineering documents to Iran. The documents contained information related to the U.S. military’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and federal prosecutors allege they were stolen from Pratt & Whitney and two other defense contractors.
Last October the documents were allegedly shipped by truck from Khazaee’s Connecticut apartment to a port in Long Beach, Calif. They were shipped in boxes labeled “Household Goods,” which were loaded onto a container ship bound for Iran. But in court documents Khazaee’s lawyer, Hubert Santos, contends in a court filing that the cash Khazaee was carrying at the airport was intended to help his mother whose health is failing and the documents were part of his personal collection.
“The dozens of boxes Khazaee sent to Iran included thousands of pages of innocuous materials, such as books of poetry, decades-old engineering textbooks, and other old materials that are a product of Khazaee’s ‘pack rat’ nature rather than any other motives,” Santos argued in a motion requesting Khazaee’s pre-trial release. Santos also added that Khazaee has no prior criminal record and the documents he attempted to ship included papers from companies he had worked at before being hired by Pratt & Whitney. “Of the folders of materials from Rolls Royce and other companies, many of these are training materials or other materials he was told he could bring home to study or complete,” said Santos.
Federal prosecutors paint a very different picture. In a memorandum submitted to the court in response to the motion in support of Khazaee’s release, U.S. attorney Deirdre Daly and assistant U.S. attorneys Krishna Patel and Stephen Reynolds argued against Khazaee’s release.
(Below, at the United Kingdom F-35 Lightning II delivery ceremony on July 19, 2012 at Lockheed Martin Corporation in Fort Worth, Texas. The ceremony marked the first international delivery of an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to a partner nation. Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
“Khazaee claims that because he has no prior criminal history, he is not a danger to the community,” the U.S. attorneys wrote. “The evidence uncovered during the criminal investigation, however, 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.”
The memorandum goes on to quote from a 2009 digital correspondence between Khazaee and a University in Iran in which Khazaee allegedly tells the university he is seeking to “transfer my skill and knowledge to my nation.”
On July 2, when Khazaee appeared in Bridgeport’s U.S. District Court, U.S. Magistrate Judge William I. Garfinkel sided with the prosecution and denied Khazaee pre-trial release even on the condition that he wear an electronic tracking bracelet and post a $50,000 bail. The Hartford Courant reports Garfinkel stated Khazaee "has very good reason to leave the country. In fact, it would almost be irrational for him not to attempt to leave, under the circumstances. … This is a case that the flight risk is way too high."
Khazaee, who was born in 1954, moved to the U.S. in his late teens. He became a citizen in the 1990s and obtained his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from New Mexico State University. Over the years he worked as a mechanical engineer for a variety of well-known companies and invented patented devices for both GM and Chrysler. In 2010 he moved to Manchester to work as a structural analyst for Pratt & Whitney. In late 2013, after being laid off from Pratt & Whitney he moved to Indiana, where he had lived previously.
Khazaee has been charged with three counts of interstate transportation of stolen property. If convicted he could face 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. But prosecutors say he could face up to 30 years in prison for more serious crimes that the government has not yet charged him with.
Jury selection for his trial was originally scheduled for this past April but the trial has been postponed until spring of next year because Khazaee’s lawyer requested and was granted a continuance until 2015.