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Civilian Navy engineer charged with attempting to steal, pass schematics of USS Gerald R. Ford to Egypt

Posted at 5:38 PM, Dec 05, 2014

Norfolk, Va. – A 35-year-old Navy engineer from Yorktown was arrested Friday on charges of attempting to steal schematics of the Navy’s newest nuclear aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, and pass the schematics to whom he believed was an Egyptian government official, according to a release from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Mostafa Ahmed Awwad is charged with two counts of attempted exportation of defense articles and technical data, and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on each count if convicted.

According to an FBI affidavit submitted to the court in support of search warrants, Awwad began working for the Department of Navy in February 2014 as a civilian general engineer in the Nuclear Engineering and Planning Department at Norfolk Naval Shipyard.

Based on joint investigation, an FBI undercover agent posing as an Egyptian intelligence officer speaking in Arabic was able to contact Awwad and arrange for a variety of classified Navy information to be stolen over the course of several months.

Click here to read the full indictment of Mostafa Ahmed Awwad

Click here to read the full affidavit in support of search warrants

The undercover FBI agent first contacted Awwad by telephone on September 18 and asked to meet him the following day. Awwad agreed and met with the undercover FBI in a park in Hampton.

During the meeting Awwad claimed it was his intention to utilize his position of trust with the U.S. Navy to obtain military technology for use by the Egyptian government, including but not limited to, the designs of the USS Gerald R. Ford nuclear aircraft carrier.

Awwad agreed to conduct clandestine communications with the undercover FBI agent by email and unattributable telephones and to conduct “dead drops” in a concealed location in the park.

Awwad and the undercover FBI agent met at a hotel on October 9th and Awwad described a detailed plan to circumvent U.S. Navy computer security by installing software on his restricted computer system that would enable him to copy documents without causing a security alert.

He also provided the undercover FBI agent four Computer Aided Drawings of a U.S. nuclear aircraft carrier downloaded from the Navy Nuclear Propulsion Information system. The drawings were marked with warnings that foreign distribution could result in criminal prosecution. Awwad indicated his understanding that the drawings would be sent to and used in Egypt.

Awwad also asked the undercover FBI agent for $1,500 to purchase a pinhole camera he would wear around the shipyard to photograph restricted material.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Awwad agreed to provide the undercover FBI agent with passport photos which would be used to produce a fraudulent Egyptian passport so Awwad could travel to Egypt without alerting U.S. government officials.

On October 23, 2014, Awwad traveled to the pre-arranged dead drop site situated on a secluded hiking trail, and utilized a concealed container disguised in a hole in the ground. He retrieved $3,000 in cash before placing a one terabyte external hard drive and two passport photos inside.

The FBI later collected the contents of the dead drop container.

On November 28, 2014, Awwad was observed entering his office at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard holding a cardboard tube about three feet long. Once in his office, Awwad opened the cardboard tube and took out several white sheets which appeared to be design schematics of an aircraft carrier. He then placed the schematics on the floor of his office and photographed them. After approximately 45 minutes of viewing the schematics and taking photographs, Awwad placed all the schematics back in the cardboard tube and left his office.

Awwad made his initial appearance in federal court on Friday, and is scheduled to appear for a detention hearing on December 10, 2014, at 3:30 p.m. at the federal courthouse in Norfolk, Virginia.