A Naval engineer admitted Monday that he tried to leak drawings of the military’s new aircraft carrier to the Egyptian government — a plot that was foiled because the engineer was actually corresponding with an undercover FBI agent.
Mostafa Ahmed Awwad, 36, of Yorktown, Va., pleaded guilty in federal district court in Norfolk to attempted espionage, acknowledging that he gave computer drawings of the USS Gerald R. Ford to an agent posing as an Egyptian intelligence officer. As a part of his plea, Awwad will face a sentence of from between eight to 11 years in prison, court filings show.
Awwad was charged in the case last year, when authorities detailed his involvement in a plot that could have been drawn from the pages of a spy novel. His plea revealed some new details, including Awwad’s claim that when he went to the Egyptian embassy to renounce his Egyptian citizenship for his U.S. security clearance, he talked with a person there about “the possibility of moving nuclear technology to Egypt.”
By federal authorities’ account, Awwad used a dead-drop spot and coded e-mails to hide his wrongdoing, and he told an undercover agent he wanted to use his government access to help give military technology to Egypt. He also talked about where to shoot the USS Gerald R. Ford in order to sink it — a possibly serious threat to the security of a carrier that officials have hailed as a technological marvel.
Awwad, who was born in Saudi Arabia, married a U.S. citizen in Cairo in 2007 and began the process of becoming a U.S. citizen, court filings show. As a civilian who worked in the Nuclear Engineering and Planning Department at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, he had confidential security clearance and was eligible to obtain a secret security clearance.
James Broccoletti, Awwad’s attorney, said his client was technically employed by the shipyard, and the materials he gave to the agent -- while not cleared for public released -- were not secret or classified. He said his client accepted the plea deal at least in part because the eight to eleven year sentence would fall below what federal guidelines would have called for were Awwad to fight the case at trial and be convicted.
“We decided that it was in his best interests to accept the agreement rather than risk a trial,” Broccoletti said.
Awwad is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 21, authorities said.