By Andrew Zajac
Dec. 5 (Bloomberg) — A civilian engineer at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard was arrested in a sting operation on a charge of trying to steal diagrams of the U.S. Navy’s newest nuclear aircraft carrier for a man who he believed to be a spy for the Egyptian government, according to court papers.
Mostafa Ahmed Awwad, 35, of Yorktown, Virginia, was charged with two counts of attempting to export defense information connected to the USS Gerald R. Ford in an indictment made public today in federal court in Norfolk.
Awwad in September was contacted by “Yousef,” an Arabic- speaking FBI agent posing as an Egyptian intelligence agent, prosecutors said. Awwad expressed an intent to obtain military technology for use by Egypt, according to a statement in support of a warrant for a search of Awwad’s home, storage unit and vehicles.
The next month, Awwad told the agent how he planned to circumvent Navy computer security by installing software that would enable him to copy documents without triggering an alert, the U.S. said. He provided Yousef with four computer-aided drawings of the aircraft carrier, which were barred from release to non-U.S. citizens, according to the statement.
He asked Yousef for $1,500 to buy a pinhole camera so he could walk around the shipyard and photograph restricted material, an agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation wrote in the search-warrant request.
Awwad later left six more restricted drawings of the vessel for Yousef at a drop site along a secluded hiking trail in Hampton, Virginia, and took $3,000 left there for him, the government said.
He also gave Yousef passport photos to be used to produce a phony Egyptian passport so he could travel to Egypt without alerting U.S. officials, prosecutors said.
Awwad, born in Saudi Arabia, married a U.S. citizen in Cairo in 2007 and became a citizen, according to prosecutors. He began working at the shipyard’s nuclear engineering and planning department in February, they said.
He made an initial court appearance today and is scheduled for a detention hearing on Dec. 10. If convicted, he faces as long as 20 years in prison on each count. His lawyer, Keith Kimball, declined to comment on the charges.
The case is U.S. v. Awwad, 14-cr-00163, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia (Norfolk).
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