BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) — A former defense contractor engineer poses too much of a flight risk to release from prison while he awaits trial on charges that he tried to ship sensitive military documents to Iran, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
Magistrate Judge William Garfinkel denied a bail request by Mozaffar Khazaee, who has pleaded not guilty to charges of transporting property stolen from companies where he'd worked, including jet engine maker Pratt & Whitney.
"He has very good reason to leave the country," Garfinkel said.
Hubert Santos, Khazaee's attorney, said the government was wrongly inferring he was trying to help the Iranian government and was falsely accusing him because he's an Iranian citizen. He said Khazaee was trying to get a job as a professor and was trying to impress a university in Iran.
"I just think it's a situation of overkill and the leaps that the government makes," Santos said.
Prosecutor Krishna Patel said authorities are concerned the Iranian government could gain access to the materials and would be concerned with anyone engaged in such conduct.
Khazaee, 59, tried to ship to Iran stolen proprietary information about the Air Force F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program, a fighter jet, and military jet engines, prosecutors said. Customs inspectors found sensitive technical manuals and other documents in a November shipment to Iran that Khazaee described in shipping documents as household goods, prosecutors said.
Khazaee was arrested in January at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey en route to Tehran.
In the court papers filed Tuesday, prosecutors say a review of Khazaee's emails indicates that as of 2009 he already had provided a university in Iran with documents related to the Joint Strike Fighter program. In one email to a university in 2009, Khazaee wrote that the documents he posted "are very controlled ... and I am taking big risk," prosecutors wrote.
"The investigation determined that over the past decade or so, while employed as an engineer at certain defense contractors, Khazaee surreptitiously stole from his employers tens of thousands of pages of extremely sensitive military technology, which he attempted to send — and in some instances successfully sent — to Iran," prosecutors wrote.
Garfinkel cited that comment in denying his release.
"He knew apparently based on what he said he was at risk of what's happening right now," Garfinkel said.
Santos said Khazaee was traveling to Iran to visit his ill mother. He also questioned the value of the materials, saying a lot of it was old and obsolete. Khazaee has no criminal record, is not a flight risk and did not believe any materials he took to Iran involved sensitive information, Santos said.
Patel said Khazaee was trying to leave the country with sensitive military material he knew he wasn't supposed to have.