Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Court Documents: Yorktown Naval Engineer Attempted to Expose ‘Vulnerable Areas’ of Aircraft Carrier

A rendering of the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford, which is under construction at Newport News Shipbuilding (Courtesy Newport News Shipbuilding)
Mostafa Ahmed Awwad is accused of trying to leak designs of the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford, which is under construction at Newport News Shipbuilding, to the Egyptian government (Courtesy Newport News Shipbuilding

A Yorktown man accused of attempting to give the Egyptian government U.S. aircraft carrier schematics was giving an undercover FBI agent details on how to “strike the vessel into order to sink it,” court documents show.

Mostafa Ahmed Awwad is suspected of feeding designs of the USS Gerald R. Ford — the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier currently under construction at Newport News Shipbuilding — to what he thought was an Egyptian government official.

Awwad is scheduled to be in the Norfolk District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia today for an arraignment hearing, in which a federal judge will formally read the criminal charges against him and ask him to enter a plea.

The Saudi Arabia native had access to “secret” information, such as large-scale drawings of the aircraft carrier through his job as a civilian general engineer in the Nuclear Engineering and Planning Department at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard and was giving the undercover FBI agent information on “how the drawings and plans would reveal the most vulnerable areas of the Ford to facilitate a missile attack,” federal documents indicate.

Awwad was also illegally downloading information from his restricted U.S. Navy computer system for several months, according to court documents.

The 35-year-old man became an American citizen in 2012 after moving to the U.S. in 2007 with his American-born wife, whom he said had no knowledge of his alleged schemes, authorities said.

Awwad told the FBI undercover agent posing as an Egyptian official, who met with him several times in October, he was scheming with his Egyptian mother to kidnap his two American children and take them back to Egypt because he “couldn’t trust his wife who had been in the United States for too long.”

The man who authorities said “continually expressed interest in stealing U.S. military technology for the benefit of Egypt” now faces 40 years in prison if he is convicted of two felony counts of attempted exportation of defense articles and technical data.

A federal judge denied bond last week for the Yorktown man, calling him a “flight risk” and a threat to the community.

Awwad’s lawyer, Attorney Supervisory Asst. Federal Public Defender Keith Kimball, argued at the hearing Awwad had “exaggerated his top security clearance” and that his arrest and indictment would eliminate any threat of harm to the U.S., an order of detention indicates.

He argued Awwad, who has no prior criminal record, has “ties to the community through his wife and their two children.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia has requested a trial date past the required 70-day speedy trial deadline because of the “substantial amount of recorded material” both parties will have to review.

When Awwad was arrested Dec. 5, law enforcement executed four search warrants for his Yorktown house, his storage unit on J. Clyde Morris Boulevard in Newport News and his two vehicles, a 2001 BMW and a 2002 Mercury Mountaineer,  and seized “several pieces of electronic media.”

After being issued a security clearance to the “secret” classification at his job Aug. 8, Awwad had access to information on nuclear-powered ships and prototypes.

A little more than a month after being issued the security clearance, Awwad received a call from an FBI undercover agent identifying himself as “Yousef” from Washington, D.C. The agent spoke to Awwad in Arabic, and Awwad agreed to meet with him the following day, the news release states.

The two met in a Hampton public park the next morning, where Awwad told the agent he wanted to use his job to obtain military technology for use by the Egyptian government. The meeting lasted nearly 90 minutes, in which the two allegedly discussed U.S. radar technology, U.S nuclear aircraft carriers, ballistic nuclear submarines and nuclear attack submarines, an affidavit shows.

The two agreed to stay in touch via unattributable telephones and email addresses, as well as through “dead drops,” or concealed locations within the park.

Awwad brought a .45 caliber handgun to the park meeting, FBI Special Agent James Blizter wrote in the affidavit.

Yousef and Awwad met several times in October, at the park and in a Hampton hotel, and each time, the conversation was recorded. Awwad “continually expressed interest in stealing U.S military technology for the benefit of Egypt,” Miller wrote in a Dec. 11 order of detention.

Awwad allegedly requested a laptop, thumb drives, an external hard drive, a prepaid phone and $1,500 to purchase a miniature camera, which he is suspected of using to take photos of large-scale drawings of the Ford, which is expected to be completed in 2016.

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