A Naval engineer is facing federal charges for allegedly giving an undercover FBI agent secret documents on a new aircraft carrier being built in Norfolk, Va.
Saudi-born Mostafa Ahmed Awwad, 35, of Yorktown, Va., was arrested Friday on an FBI affidavit claiming he planned to use a dead-drop location along a secluded hiking trail to hand off secret information about the Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier, set to be delivered to the Navy in 2016, Fox News reported Saturday.
During a hotel meeting on Oct. 9, Mr. Awwad gave the undercover agent, posing as an Egyptian spy named “Yousef,” secret drawings of the vessel and “discussed where to strike the vessel with a missile in order sink it,” the affidavit says.
He also asked for $1,500 to buy a tiny camera to photograph restricted material around the shipyard.
Mr. Awwad cried as he was led into a courtroom for a hearing on Saturday, The Virginian Pilot reported. A magistrate judge ordered Mr. Awwad be detained until a second hearing on Wednesday.
Mr. Awwad is accused of two counts of attempted exportation of defense articles and technical data, punishable by 20 years in prison for each count.
According to the affidavit, Mr. Awwad was born in Saudi Arabia, married a U.S. citizen in Cairo in 2007 and took steps to become a U.S citizen.
He was hired to work at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard’s nuclear engineering and planning department in February and received security clearance in August.
The FBI began a sting operation in September after the undercover agent contacted Mr. Awwad. It is unclear why he was contacted, Fox News reported.
Court documents say Mr. Awwad explained to “Yousef” that he intended to use his position to obtain secret documents for the Egyptian government, including but not limited to, the designs of the new nuclear aircraft carrier.
“Awwad agreed to conduct clandestine communications with the undercover FBI agent by email and unattributable telephones and to conduct ‘dead drops’ in a concealed location in the park,” the Justice Department said in a press release, cited by The Navy Times.
At the end of the meeting Mr. Awwad agreed to provide the undercover agent with passport photos at the dead-drop location to be used to create a fake Egyptian passport so he could travel to Egypt without alerting U.S. government officials.
On Oct. 23 Mr. Awwad traveled to the dead drop location on the hiking trail where he retrieved $3,000 from a hole in the ground and left the photos and a one-tarabyte external hard drive, which the FBI later collected.
On Nov. 28, Mr. Awwad was observed entering his office at the shipyard carrying design schematics of the aircraft carrier in a cardboard tube, according to the Justice Department release. He spent roughly 45 minutes viewing the schematics and taking photos before placing them back in a cardboard tube and leaving the office.