Two men were arrested on suspicions they illegally acquired and sold thousands of U.S. Air Force technical orders and aerospace data to domestic and foreign customers for a profit.
Law enforcement officials arrested Sarfraz Yousuf, 43, of Miramar, Florida, and Marc Chavez, 53, of Trabuco Canyon, California, over their alleged involvement in the scheme, the Department of Justice announced Wednesday. Each was charged with one count of theft of government property.
According to an affidavit provided to Military.com, the men each ran separate businesses out of their homes. Yousuf obtained and sold 1,875 stolen technical orders -- documents detailing operations, maintenance and schematics of equipment -- to Chavez between 2015 and 2020 in exchange for at least $132,280, according to a filing by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Santa Ana, California.
In one instance in June 2020, Yousuf, who worked for Summit Aerospace, sold 34 Air Force technical orders to Chavez, including one containing overhaul instructions related to a "Rate Gyro Assembly Flight Control" for $2,170, the affidavit states. The assembly is part of a flight control system that stabilizes an aircraft's altitude in the air.
Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek referred questions to the Department of Justice. The DOJ did not provide further comment when asked when the Air Force was alerted to the breach and whether the service was able to reclaim the data.
The Air Force breach was discovered while law enforcement officials were investigating a U.S. Navy employee's unlawful sale of government-controlled technical drawings to a Newport Beach, California, company. That employee, civilian engineer Mark Fitting, 54, of Berlin, New Jersey, pleaded guilty in December 2020 to one count of aiding and abetting the distribution of stolen government property and one count of conspiracy. He was employed at a Navy facility in Philadelphia, according to the DOJ.
The investigation found that the Newport Beach company, Newport Aeronautical Sales, was unlawfully obtaining Air Force technical orders from a Yahoo email account that belonged to Yousuf, who went by the alias "Mandy," according to the DOJ.
In one of the earliest emails, dating back to 2015, "Mandy" corresponded with someone at the company to tout his access to Air Force documents.
"I have direct access to the Air Force Portal to which I get the absolute latest revisions to T.O.'s!! I GUARANTEE you the latest revision sent electronically at the time of request once it is not a restricted one!... Hope to hear from you soon. Mandy," the email reads, according to the affidavit.
Chavez worked for LTC Products, a company "created in order to meet the demand of the Aviation and Aerospace community for both Aircraft parts and Technical Data," according to a description provided in the affidavit.
It also notes that LTC Products maintains "an extensive library of commercial, private and military component repair manuals that cover popular aircraft such as the Boeing, Douglas, Airbus, and Cessna models."
Chavez previously worked for Newport Aeronautical Sales, the affidavit states.
If convicted, Chavez and Yousef face a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.