SANTA ANA, Calif. (CN) — Over 5,000 technical manuals and drawings, including military weapon systems, stolen from the U.S. Navy were sold to a California-based private company that then sold the information to customers across the globe, according to a criminal complaint filed Wednesday.
Four people have been arrested in the scheme, including civilian Navy engineer Mark Fitting who works out of a government facility in Philadelphia according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Prosecutors say Fitting exchanged two dozen emails with Melony Erice who helped sell the documents to the private company. The emails contained government-controlled technical drawings or manuals related to military weapons systems.
Fitting had access to such documents because he signed a request form with the federal government that said he would “safeguard the data” from release.
“[S]ome of those drawings and manuals were specifically labeled with International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) distribution warnings related to export control and destruction, as well as DOD contractor proprietary markings,” according to an affidavit dated Aug. 28, 2020.
Erice’s Gmail account contained documents and drawings which prosecutors say Fitting used to sell the information to Newport Aeronautical Sales Corporation (NASC), a private company based in Orange County, California.
From Sept. 21, 2012, through June 20, 2019, Fitting and Erice sold at least 5,000 technical manuals and drawings to NASC. Over that time, the private company paid Erice over $509,000 which prosecutors say she shared with Fitting.
In an email exchange between Fitting and Erice, Fitting said he was entitled to 75% of the proceeds from their sales and Erice should get the rest, according to prosecutors.
Authorities arrested Erice, Fitting and with NASC employees Dean Mirabal and George Posey IV, both Southern California residents.
Prosecutors say Mirabal made specific requests for certain documents from Fitting and Erice.
“In one such instance, on Dec. 8, 2018, at the request of Mirabal, Fitting accessed and downloaded a government-controlled technical drawing for a military landing craft air cushion that he and Erice sold to NASC, along with at least 16 other government-controlled technical drawings and/or manuals, for $5,025,” according to the affidavit. “Knowing the drawing was unlawfully procured outside of official government channels, Posey paid Erice for the drawing.”
NASC sold the drawing to a customer, according to the affidavit.
Prosecutors say Posey and Mirabal are aware of the necessary processes to get government-controlled documents and knew what they were doing was illegal.
Fitting became the focus of federal investigators when he was accused of “interfering with the quality assurance process for aircraft canopies intended for use in U.S. military aircraft,” prosecutors say.
Investigators from the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service are working on the case along with Homeland Security and other government agencies.
The affidavit says the scheme started in 2012 but may go back as far as 2008.
The four people arrested are scheduled to make their first appearances in federal courtrooms across the country.
A phone call to NASC was not answered on Thursday morning.