An Iranian-American engineer in a key US company and nearly smuggled sensitive fighter jet plans to Iran has pleaded guilty. He could be sentenced to 20 years in prison and a million dollars in fines. Sentencing is scheduled for May 20. According to U.S. Attorney Stephen B. Reynolds, Muzafar Khazaee's crime deserves about five years in prison.
Khazaee, an American of Iranian descent, was caught when he tried to board a plane with 44 boxes that contained top secret mechanical information on the F-35 stealth jet fighter and the F-22 Raptor. Khazaee was arrested January 10 at Newark Liberty International Airport, before he could board a flight to Frankfurt, Germany, en route to Tehran.
Khazaee decided not to pursue a defense, but rather pleaded guilty to charges of violating the Arms Export Control Act. By way of explanation, he told the court that he was taking the plans with him in order to better understand the engineering behind the planes so that he could get a job at an Iranian university. His last employer, Pratt and Whitney, had laid him off in August 2013. He planned to send the boxes back to the US after he had found a job, he said.
In a statement, US Attorney Deirdre M. Daly said that “while employed with U.S. defense contractors, Mozaffar Khazaee stole sensitive, proprietary and controlled technology to send it to Iran. The illegal export of our military technology compromises U.S. national security and reduces the advantages our armed forces currently possess.”
The US has also apparently recently released a second Iranian spy: Mujtaba Atarudi, who was nabbed two years ago when he tried to smuggle classified information related to the Iranian nuclear program.
Several figures have pointed out parallels Khazaee case to that of Jonathan Pollard's – with the difference that Pollard has been in jail for some three decades, and the possibilities of parole appear remote, despite Pollard's poor health. The Chairman of the Pollard Lobby in the Knesset, MK Nahman Shai, said the rulings once again highlighted the fact that Pollard is serving his 29th year in jail, despite spying for Israel, a friendly country.