Apr 7, 2014
11:57 AM
Connecticut Today

Connecticut Spy Case Jury Selection to Start: Intel Bound for Iran

Connecticut Spy Case Jury Selection to Start: Intel Bound for Iran

Paul Crock/Getty Images

Mozaffar Khazaee allegedly tried to ship documents to Iran related to the U.S. military’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, and to the engine for the F-22 Raptor, pictured here as it roars through the sky during the Australian International Airshow in Melbourne on March 1, 2013.

Mozaffar Khazaee was heading to Iran.

It was Jan. 9 and Khazaee had just flown from Indianapolis to Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey. The former Connecticut resident was scheduled to board a connecting flight to Frankfurt, Germany, and then take another connecting  flight to Tehran, Iran.

Khazaee is a native of Iran who became a U.S. citizen in 1991. He used to work at Pratt & Whitney in East Hartford but was laid off last summer.

Records show that over the past seven years he has visited his home country five times. But this time was different; this time it appeared that he was not planning on coming back.

In his carry-on bag, Khazaee had $59,945 in cash and, according to Federal prosecutors, he had previously tried to ship thousands of sensitive documents to Iran. These documents were allegedly stolen from Pratt & Whitney and two other defense contractors and contained information related to the U.S. military’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.

Before he could board the connecting flight to Germany, Khazaee (above) was arrested by federal authorities at the airport in Newark. He would ultimately be 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.

In February, Khazaee pleaded not guilty to all charges. Jury selection for his trial is scheduled to begin Thursday, April 10, at 9:30 a.m., at the United States District Court in Hartford.

(Right, an F-35 during the 2008 Joint Services Open House and Air Show at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images.)

According to court documents, Khazaee moved from Manchester, Conn., to Indianapolis shortly before his arrest. At Pratt & Whitney he worked on a team that conducted strength and durability evaluations for components in all the engines the company was working on, including the F119 engine for the military’s F-22 Raptor, a stealth aircraft. He was laid off last August when the company cut about 400 employees.

The F-22 was phased out in favor of the F-35, which uses a different Pratt engine, the F-135.

The indictment details how Khazaee allegedly attempted last October to ship thousands of sensitive and proprietary blueprints, diagrams and technical manuals concerning military engines. The documents were shipped by truck from his apartment to a port in Long Beach, Calif. They were shipped in boxes labeled “Household Goods,” which were loaded onto the NYK Libra, a container ship bound for Iran. The documents were being sent to Khazaee’s brother-in-law, Mohammad Payendah in Hamadan, Iran.

In November, customs agents inspected the shipment and found the sensitive aircraft documents. Subsequent investigations led to Khazaee's January arrest at the Newark airport. The indictment ties Khazaee's alleged actions to three companies for which he worked. They are referred to in documents only as Company A, Company B and Company C.

When reached by Connecticut Magazine, Ray Hernandez, manager of external communications for Pratt & Whitney, provided the following statement via email:

“Pratt & Whitney is fully cooperating with law enforcement and will support the government's investigation in any way necessary. The criminal complaint refers to three companies and Pratt & Whitney is Company A. Protecting sensitive technical data is one of our highest priorities. Because the investigation is ongoing, any additional questions about the investigation are better suited for the government to address at the appropriate time.”

A spokesperson for the United States Attorney’s Office, District of Connecticut, which is prosecuting the case, said that no attorneys working on the case could comment on it at this time. 

Contact with me by email eofgang@connecticutmag.com and follow me on Twitter, and connect with Connecticut Magazine on Twitter, on Facebook and on Google +

Connecticut Spy Case Jury Selection to Start: Intel Bound for Iran

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