Yorktown Naval Engineer to Serve 11 Years for 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 who attempted to steal the schematics of a U.S. Navy ship has been sentenced to 132 months – or 11 years – in federal prison.

Mostafa Ahmed Awwad, a 36-year-old Yorktown man who served as a civil general engineer at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, pleaded guilty to attempted espionage in June.

Awwad, a Saudi Arabia native who became a U.S. citizen in 2012, admitted to attempting to steal schematics for the U.S. Navy’s newest nuclear aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, with the intention of providing them to the Egyptian government.

“This office is committed to safeguarding our nation’s sensitive defense information, and we will bring to justice those who seek to steal it,” said Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.

The FBI arrested Awwad, who began working at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in February 2014, in December after months of undercover investigations in which conversations about the designs of the unfinished aircraft carrier between Awwad and an undercover agent posing as Egyptian official were recorded.

During the investigation, Awwad met with the agent on several occasions to discuss U.S. radar technology, U.S nuclear aircraft carriers, ballistic nuclear submarines and nuclear attack submarines. He also provided the undercover agent with four drawings of a nuclear aircraft carrier, and requested money to buy a pinhole camera to wear around the shipyard to photograph classified material.

“This case is a chilling reminder that the insider threat is more pervasive and dangerous than ever,” said John Carlin, assistant attorney general for National Security. “The defendant’s actions and intent to provide national defense information to a foreign government posed a significant threat to national security and directly endangered the lives of American service members.”

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