Federal officers arrested two men Wednesday amid allegations that they illegally obtained and sold sensitive Air Force technical data, the Justice Department announced in a release.
Sarfraz Yousuf, 43, is accused of selling at least 1,875 sets of data known as technical orders to Marc Chavez, 53, between January 2015 and July 2020. Chavez paid at least $132,280 for the information and resold the manuals for a profit as recently as December 2020, according to the U.S. government.
A federal affidavit filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California did not name Chavez’s customers, or specific aircraft or other systems involved in the case.
“The technical orders at issue in this case are documents that cover installation, operation, maintenance, and handling of Air Force equipment and material,” DOJ said, adding that Chavez bought and resold one technical order “of such military significance that release … may jeopardize an important technological or operational military advantage of the United States.”
The cover page of that manual referred to the Ogden Air Logistics Complex at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, a key maintenance depot that works on the F-35 Lightning II, F-22 Raptor, F-16 Fighting Falcon, A-10 Thunderbolt II, C-130 Hercules, T-38 Talon, Minuteman III nuclear missile and more.
Sold information included instructions for handling the rate gyro system, part of an aircraft that stabilizes navigation systems.
Air Force spokesperson Ann Stefanek and Air Force Materiel Command spokesperson Derek Kaufman referred questions on the matter to DOJ. The service declined to answer which aircraft the technical data belongs to, or whether the Air Force is taking steps to protect its weapon systems.
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Federal investigators discovered the problem while looking into a Navy employee’s unlawful sale of government technical drawings to California-based Newport Aeronautical Sales Corp., or NASC. That company resold the documents to unnamed domestic and foreign customers, according to DOJ.
“Law enforcement discovered NASC also illegally obtained U.S. Air Force technical orders from the users of an email account used by Yousuf, an employee of Summit Aerospace Inc., a Miami-based aircraft maintenance company,” DOJ said.
Yousuf was Summit Aerospace’s data custodian, an employee that handles military technical information and manages who receives it, according to a Defense Logistics Agency form cited in the affidavit. He also worked for Kellstrom Repair Services, a government contractor, and is listed as the registered agent for a company called Aerospace Parts Source, federal officials said.
According to court documents, Yousuf — using the alias of “Mandy” to discuss sales — told NASC employees he could get them Air Force systems data. He had access to about 10,870 technical orders, the affidavit said.
“I have direct access to the Air Force Portal to which I get the absolute latest revisions to T.O.’s!!” Mandy wrote in an email quoted in the federal affidavit. “I GUARANTEE you the latest revision sent electronically at the time of request once it is not a restricted one!”
The seller appears to offer to charge $50 for illustrated parts lists, $80 for overhaul data, or $95 for manuals including both, federal officials said.
“Based on my review of Air Force records and my investigation in this case, I believe S. YOUSUF used his access to [the Enhanced Technical Information Management System] to access Air Force TOs, converted the TOs to his own use, and then sold the TOs to various entities, including NASC and LTC Products,” Special Agent Marc Nelson wrote in the affidavit.
According to court documents, Chavez bought Air Force information from Yousuf on behalf of LTC Products, which sells technical aerospace data. Chavez runs the company out of his home in California and claims to have an “extensive library of commercial, private and military component repair manuals the cover popular aircraft such as the Boeing, Douglas, Airbus and Cessna models, to name a few,” the affidavit said.
Nelson added in the affidavit that he believes Chavez provided an LTC Products customer with Air Force data in exchange for Army maintenance data.
Chavez previously worked as a data custodian for Coastal Aeronautical, a former defense contractor, as well as NASC, the government said.
Yousuf and Chavez are each criminally charged with one count of theft of government property. They face up to 10 years in federal prison if convicted.
The U.S. State Department has reached a $13 million settlement with Honeywell over allegations it exported technical drawings of parts for the F-35 fighter jet and other weapons platforms to China, among other foreign countries.
Yousuf, of Miramar, Florida, appeared Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale and was released on $250,000 bond, DOJ spokesperson Ciaran McEvoy said. The court ordered him to appear at court in the Central District of California on a yet-undermined date.
Chavez, of Trabuco Canyon, California, was released on $20,000 bond after appearing in federal court in Santa Ana Wednesday, McEvoy said. His lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment the same day. Arraignment is set for June 21 in California.
The Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Homeland Security Investigations, the Commerce Department’s Office of Export Enforcement, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations and U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command are working on the case.
The matter comes to light shortly after the State Department announced a $13 million settlement with American defense firm Honeywell, which faced charges related to military drawings it allegedly shared with China, Taiwan, Canada and Ireland. Those documents included information on the Air Force’s F-35 and F-22 fighter jets, the B-1B Lancer bomber, the C-130 transport aircraft and the A-10 Warthog attack plane, among other defense technologies.