(CN) - A former engineer with several high profile defense contractors pleaded guilty Wednesday to trying to export military secrets to Iran, the Justice Department announced.
Mozaffar Khazaee, an Iranian-American living in Connecticut, entered his plea before U.S. District Judge Vanessa Bryant as part of a settlement with prosecutors.
Federal law enforcement officials arrested Khazaee, a former employee of General Electric, Pratt & Whitney, and Rolls Royce, at Liberty Newark International Airport in New Jersey in 2013 as he attempted to fly to Iran through Germany.
Prosecutors said his arrest followed the discovery of thousands of pages of sensitive information in boxes that Khazaee tried to ship to family members in Iran. The files included presentations, schematics and documents related to the United States Joint Strike Fighter Program.
At the time of his arrest, the authorities said, Khazaee had $59,945 in his luggage.
Khazaee told Judge Bryant that he'd made "a very bad mistake," explaining he'd built up his library of secret materials simply by holding on to them as he was laid off by successive employers between 2009 and 2013..
He also said that he shared the materials with interviewers as he applied for work at an Iranian university.
Prosecutors said with his pleas Khazaee could face up to five years in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced on May 20.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.