Yorktown Naval Engineer Pleads Guilty to Attempted Espionage

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A rendering of the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford, which is under construction at Newport News Shipbuilding (Courtesy Newport News Shipbuilding)
A rendering of the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford, which is under construction at Newport News Shipbuilding (Courtesy Newport News Shipbuilding)

A Yorktown engineer working for the Department of the Navy pleaded guilty to attempting to leak classified information about a U.S. naval aircraft carrier Monday.

Although the maximum punishment for this crime is life in prison, prosecutors have elected to recommend a sentence of eight to 11 years for Mostafa Ahmed Awwad after he accepted a plea deal in the Norfolk District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia

The 36-year-old Saudi Arabia native attempted to share schematics of the USS Gerald R. Ford nuclear aircraft carrier with the Egyptian government in 2014.

He was arrested Dec. 5 by the FBI after months of undercover investigations in which conversations about the designs of the aircraft carrier — which is still under construction — between Awwad and an FBI undercover agent were recorded.

Awwad, who became an American citizen in 2012, began working for the Navy in February 2014 as a civil general engineer in the Nuclear Engineering and Planning Department at Norfolk Naval Shipyard and was issued a security clearance to the “secret” classification at his job Aug. 8.

In October, Awwad met with the undercover agent — who posed as an Egyptian official named “Yousef” — multiple times, discussing U.S. radar technology, U.S nuclear aircraft carriers, ballistic nuclear submarines and nuclear attack submarines, an affidavit shows. The agent said Awwad “continually expressed interest in stealing U.S military technology for the benefit of Egypt.”

Awwad provided the undercover FBI agent with four Computer Aided Drawings of a U.S. nuclear aircraft carrier downloaded from the Navy Nuclear Propulsion Information system, according to a news release from the U.S. District Attorney.

He also requested $1,500 to purchase a pinhole camera he wanted to wear around the shipyard to photograph restricted material and told the agent he planned to travel to Egypt to meet with “high-ranking” Egyptian intelligence and military officials in Cairo.

Dana J. Boente, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, commended the Norfolk FBI and NCIS units for their undercover work.

“This office is committed to safeguarding our nation’s sensitive defense information, and we will bring to justice those who seek to steal it,” Boente said in a news release.

Awwad will be sentenced for the felony charge Sept. 21.

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