Two Costa Mesa men were among four defendants arrested Wednesday on charges involving allegations that a civilian employee of the U.S. Navy downloaded technical drawings and manuals related to military weapons systems and sold the items to a Newport Beach company, which later resold the documents to domestic and foreign customers.
The arrests were made in connection with a criminal complaint filed in Los Angeles federal court that charges all four with theft of government property. The affidavit in support of the complaint alleges that the thefts have been occurring since at least 2012, and possibly since 2008.
The four defendants are:
— Mark Fitting, 53, of Berlin, New Jersey, an engineer employed by the Navy at a facility in Philadelphia;
— Melony Erice, 54, of Lighthouse Point, Florida, who formerly lived with Fitting in New Jersey;
— George Posey IV, 36, of Costa Mesa, an employee of Newport Aeronautical Sales Corp., a Newport Beach company that sells technical aircraft data; and
— Dean Mirabal, 52, of Costa Mesa, another NASC employee.
Posey and Mirabal are expected to appear Tuesday in federal court in Santa Ana, and the others will appear in the districts where they were arrested. The theft of government property charge carries a sentence of up to 10 years in federal prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The investigation started when military investigators began looking at Fitting in relation to claims that he “was interfering with the quality assurance process for aircraft canopies intended for use in U.S. military aircraft,” according to the affidavit.
The agents with the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service discovered two dozen emails from Fitting’s Navy email account to Erice’s Gmail account, all of which contained government-controlled technical drawings or manuals related to various military weapons systems, including aircraft, the affidavit alleges.
Some of the drawings and manuals “were specifically labeled with International Traffic in Arms Regulations distribution warnings related to export control and destruction, as well as (Department of Defense) contractor proprietary markings,” according to the affidavit.
Investigators concluded that Fitting also had access to Erice’s Gmail account, which allegedly allowed both of them to sell the documents and drawings to NASC.
Between Sept. 21, 2012, and June 20, 2019, Fitting and Erice “together unlawfully sold NASC at least 5,000 government-controlled technical manuals and drawings,” the affidavit alleges.
Over the same nearly seven-year period, NASC issued Erice 150 checks totaling $509,845, but the two shared the proceeds of the sales, as evidenced by Fitting having access to one of Erice’s bank accounts and Erice being an authorized user on one of Fitting’s credit cards, according to the affidavit.
The affidavit also contains a lengthy email from Erice to Fitting obtained in connection with a search warrant that outlines how Fitting was entitled to 75% of the proceeds, with the balance going to Erice.
The affidavit outlines how Fitting and Erice allegedly obtained documents and sold them to NASC, sometimes obtaining specific documents at the request of NASC.
“In one such instance, on December 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,” the affidavit alleges.
“Knowing the drawing was unlawfully procured outside of official government channels, Posey paid Erice for the drawing,” which NASC allegedly sold to a customer.
Fitting was allowed to access military computer systems after promising to safeguard controlled data, according to the affidavit, which also alleges that Posey and Mirabal “are aware of the appropriate processes to procure government-controlled technical manuals and drawings and, as a result, they know that the acquisition of such manuals and drawings from Erice and/or Fitting is unlawful.”
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