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US-Iranian Citizen Faces Up to 10 Years in Jet Engine Case

A dual U.S.-Iranian citizen faces sentencing for violating the Arms Export Control Act. The engineer had tried to leave the U.S. with sensitive information about engines for military aircraft such as the F-22 Raptor, shown in this U.S. Air Force photo.

A dual U.S.-Iranian citizen who pleaded guilty to trying to export sensitive information about U.S. military jets to his native Iran could be sentenced to up to 10 years in federal prison at a hearing on Friday.

Mozaffar Khazaee, who had worked as an engineer at U.S. defense contractor Pratt & Whitney, was arrested in January 2014 as he tried to leave the country with sensitive material about engines for the U.S. Air Force's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and F-22 Raptor aircraft in his luggage.

Khazaee also had exchanged emails containing information about the programs with Iranian contacts.

While he pleaded guilty to the charges, Khazaee maintained in court papers that he sent information on the jets as part of a presentation he had prepared while seeking a job with an Iranian university. He had been laid off in 2013 by his prior employer, a unit of diversified manufacturer United Technologies Corp.

The U.S. Arms Export Control Act limits the export of information related to weapons systems.

Prosecutors’ case

Federal prosecutors contended Khazaee's description of that exchange was inaccurate. They said that he had emailed information on the jets well before being laid off and that he had emailed a contact in Iran that the information he sent was "very controlled ... I am taking big risk."

At a hearing in U.S. District Court in Hartford on Friday, prosecutors plan to ask for a sentence exceeding the 71 months laid out in federal sentencing guidelines, according to court papers.

Khazaee's lawyers in a court filing asked the judge in the case to let the defendant off on time served. He’s in his 60s.

"His conduct was less serious than other crimes contemplated by this guideline, and did not threaten or harm the security or foreign policy interest of the United States," his attorneys wrote.

Mother appeals for leniency

His 85-year-old mother, who spells her name Molok Khazaye, in a letter to the court asked for leniency for her son.

"I have no protector other than [my son] and am depend on him financially and emotionally strongly so," the defendant's mother wrote. "I kindly request you to grant him a pardon due to his mistake."

Khazaee's brother and sister also asked for his release.

Prior to Pratt & Whitney, which makes jet engines, Khazaee worked at major manufacturers including General Electric Co., according to court papers.