By Jonathan Stempel
(Reuters) - A former engineer for Pratt & Whitney and other defense contractors pleaded guilty on Wednesday to trying to export sensitive information about U.S. military jets to his native Iran, where he hoped to find a job, the U.S. Department of Justice said.
Mozaffar Khazaee, 60, admitted to violating the federal Arms Export Control Act, after being accused of trying between 2009 and 2013 to send stolen materials that related to engines used in the U.S. Air Force's F35 Joint Strike Fighter program and the F-22 Raptor program.
Khazaee, a dual U.S. and Iranian citizen, entered his plea before U.S. District Judge Vanessa Bryant in Hartford, Connecticut. He faces up to 20 years in prison at his sentencing, which is scheduled for May 20.
"The illegal export of our military technology compromises U.S. national security and reduces the advantages our armed forces currently possess," U.S. Attorney Deirdre Daly in Connecticut said.
"We will aggressively investigate and hold accountable those who attempt to steal trade secrets and sensitive military technology from U.S. industries, whether for their own personal gain or for the benefit of foreign actors," she added.
Lawyers for Khazaee did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
In court papers, Khazaee said he had worked for General Electric Co and Rolls-Royce before moving in 2010 to Connecticut, where he became a structural analyst for Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies Inc. Khazaee said he was laid off from Pratt & Whitney in 2013.
The defendant was arrested on Jan. 9, 2014, at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey after arriving from Indianapolis, and intending to go to Tehran, the Justice Department said.
Khazaee's luggage included some sensitive materials relating to military jet engines, the department said.
The case is U.S. v. Khazaee, U.S. District Court, District of Connecticut, NO. 14-cr-00009.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Alan Crosby)