The two men arrested this week had been running aeronautical businesses out of their homes, authorities said.
SANTA ANA, Calif. (CN) — Federal prosecutors have charged two men with buying and selling stolen U.S. Air Force technical documents, part of a broader investigation into the theft of over 5,000 manuals, schematics and military weapon systems.
Sarfraz Yousuf, 43, and Marc Chavez, 53, both ran aeronautical businesses out of their homes according to charging documents filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Santa Ana, California.
Yousuf operated Summit Aerospace from his home in Miramar, Florida, and according to prosecutors sold over 1,800 stolen technical documents to Chavez from 2015 to 2020 for at least $132,000. Chavez operated LTC Products from his Trabuco Canyon, California, home, and prosecutors say he sold the documents to other customers for a profit.
In June 2020, Yousuf sold 34 Air Force technical orders to Chavez, who paid over $2,100 for multiple schematics including a “Rate Gyro Assembly Flight Control” schematic. According to prosecutors, the document was marked with a statement from the Air Force read “technical data of such military significance that release for purposes other than direct support of DoD-approved activities may jeopardize an important technological or operational military advantage of the United States, another country, or a joint U.S.-foreign program.”
Of 50 documents seen by federal prosecutors during a review of Air Force records, all were accessed by a single account belonging to Yousuf through a special online technical management portal used by the military. Yousuf had requested access to the portal in March 2013 as an employee with Kellstrom Repair Services, a government contractor.
But prosecutors say that in 2017, Yousuf revised his account to list his employer as Summit Aerospace and subscribed to roughly 10,800 technical documents. A special agent with the Department of Defense says Yousuf only accessed specific documents after requests were made by his customers and those documents were then likely sold from Summit Aerospace.
Yousuf also sold documents to Newport Aeronautical Sales Corporation (NASC), a private company based in Orange County, California. Authorities arrested four people in September 2020 on suspicion of selling military documents to customers across the globe. Federal investigators became aware of Yousuf and Chavez while looking into the NASC operation.
Mark Fitting, 54, of Berlin, New Jersey, pleaded guilty in December 2020 to one count of conspiracy to steal government property and one count of aiding and abetting the theft of government property. Fitting, a civilian engineer employed by the Navy at a facility in Philadelphia, admitted in his plea agreement that he downloaded technical drawings and manuals that he sold to NASC.
Federal officials consider public disclosure of technical data on par with giving uncontrolled foreign access. A federal judge will sentence Fitting in October.
Yousuf and Chavez face 10 years in prison if convicted. Calls to the phone numbers listed for LTC Products and Summit Aerospace were not answered.