Civilian navy engineer, 3 others arrested on federal charges of theft, sale of government-owned technical information
LOS ANGELES – Federal authorities, including special agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), arrested four defendants Wednesday morning on charges of theft of government property. The arrests were made pursuant to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles that alleges a civilian employee of the U.S. Navy downloaded technical drawings and manuals related to U.S. military weapons systems and sold the items to a Newport Beach company, which later resold the documents to domestic and foreign customers. The affidavit in support of the complaint alleges the thefts have been occurring since at least 2012, and possibly since 2008.
This case is being investigated by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Los Angeles; the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS); the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS); and the Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security, Office of Export Enforcement. These agencies received assistance from the U.S. Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations and U.S. Army’s Criminal Investigation Command.
The four defendants are:
- Mark Fitting, 53, of Berlin, New Jersey, an engineer employed by the U.S. Navy at a facility in Philadelphia;
- Melony Erice, 54, of Lighthouse Point, Florida, who formerly cohabitated with Fitting in New Jersey;
- George Posey IV, 36, of Costa Mesa, California, an employee of Newport Aeronautical Sales Corporation (NASC), a Newport Beach company that sells technical aircraft data; and
- Dean Mirabal, 52, of Costa Mesa, another NASC employee.
All four defendants are expected to make initial appearances in federal court in the districts in which they were arrested. For example, Posey and Mirabal are expected to appear this afternoon in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana, California.
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. Agents with DCIS and NCIS discovered two dozen emails from Fitting’s U.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.
“Some 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,” the affidavit alleges.
Investigators have concluded that Fitting also had access to Erice’s Gmail account, which allowed both of them to sell the documents and drawings to NASC. According to the affidavit, 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.
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. Furthermore, the affidavit contains a lengthy email from Erice to Fitting obtained pursuant to a search warrant that outlines how Fitting was entitled to 75 percent of the proceeds, with the balance going to Erice.
The affidavit outlines how Fitting and Erice 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 states. “Knowing the drawing was unlawfully procured outside of official government channels, Posey paid Erice for the drawing,” which NASC sold to a customer.
The affidavit notes that Fitting was allowed to access military computer systems after promising to safeguard controlled data. The affidavit also notes 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.”
The felony offense of theft of government property carries a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.
This case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California’s International Narcotics, Money Laundering, and Racketeering Section.