Undercover Operation Snares Navy Engineer

He began working for the Department of the Navy in February 2014 as a civilian engineer in the Nuclear Engineering and Planning Department at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Virginia.

Almost immediately red flags began flapping in the breeze and caught the attention of security officials. It was determined that secrets were at risk and action was required. A government undercover agent speaking in Arabic contacted the engineer by telephone and asked to meet him the following day. Without seeking additional information from the caller, the engineer agreed to a meeting.

The next day the engineer met with the undercover agent, who was posing as an Egyptian intelligence officer, in a park in Hampton, Virginia. During the meeting the engineer claimed it was his intention to use his position with the U.S. Navy to obtain military technology for use by the Egyptian government. That technology would include the design of the USS Gerald R. Ford nuclear aircraft carrier.

Untraceable cell phones

The engineer agreed to stay in touch with the undercover agent by e-mail and untraceable cell phone and to conduct “dead drops” at a concealed location in the park.

In October 2014, the engineer and the undercover agent met at a hotel where the engineer described a plan to defeat U.S. Navy computer security by installing software on his restricted computer system that would let him copy documents without raising a security alert.

At that meeting the engineer also provided the undercover agent four computer aided drawings of a U.S. nuclear aircraft carrier downloaded from the Navy Nuclear Propulsion Information system. The drawings were stamped with warnings that foreign distribution could result in criminal prosecution.

During the discussion, the engineer acknowledged that the drawings would be sent to Egypt. He then asked the agent for $1,500 to purchase a pinhole camera he would wear around the shipyard to photograph restricted material. At the end of the meeting, the engineer agreed to provide the undercover agent with passport photos that would be used to produce a fake Egyptian passport so the engineer could travel to Egypt without alerting the U.S. government.

Secluded Hiking Trail

Next, the dead drop was used. The engineer went to a pre-arranged site on a secluded hiking trail, picked up $3,000 in cash and left behind an external hard drive and two passport photos.

In November 2014, the engineer entered his office at the shipyard with aircraft carrier design schematics concealed in a cardboard tube. In his office, he spread the schematics on the floor and photographed them. Then he put the schematics back in the cardboard tube and left his office.

That was plenty of evidence. Mostafa Ahmed Awwad, 35, of Yorktown, Virginia, was then arrested on charges of attempting to steal the design of the Navy’s newest nuclear aircraft carrier and pass the schematics to someone he believed was an Egyptian government official.

Awwad faces a possible 40 years in prison if convicted.

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