2 Costa Mesa residents allegedly involved with theft of military weapons documents, sale to Newport company
Federal officials arrested four individuals — two from Costa Mesa — on Wednesday morning on charges alleging that a civilian employee of the U.S. Navy downloaded technical drawings and manuals related to military weapon systems and sold the information to a Newport Beach company.
Mark Fitting of Berlin, N.J.; Melony Erice of Lighthouse Point, Fla.; and Costa Mesa residents George Posey IV and Dean Mirabal have all been charged with theft of government property. All four defendants are expected to make appearances in federal court in the districts where they were arrested. Posey and Mirabal were scheduled to appear at 2 p.m. Wednesday at the Ronald Reagan Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Santa Ana.
Federal officials said the investigation started when military officials began to look into Fitting, 53, after he was accused of “interfering with the quality assurance process for aircraft canopies intended for use in U.S. military aircraft,” according to the affidavit. Agents discovered at least 24 emails that were allegedly sent from Fitting’s Navy email account to an email identified as Erice’s.
As part of his job, Fitting was able to access military computer systems after promising to safeguard the data, according to federal prosecutors.
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All two dozen emails contained digital files containing government-controlled technical drawings or manuals related to various military weapon systems, including aircraft.
The affidavit also states that the investigation showed that both Erice and Fitting had access to Erice’s email account, through which it was alleged that they sold the technical drawings and manuals to Newport Beach-based Newport Aeronautical Sales Corp.
The company is alleged to have then sold the documents to customers both domestically and internationally. Investigators said that the company has purchased documents from Fitting and Erice at least since 2012, but may have been acquiring them since 2008.
Newport Aeronautical Sales Corp. did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Between Sept. 21, 2012, and June 20, 2019, the company issued Erice approximately 150 checks for a total amount of $509,845. Investigators allege the two unlawfully sold at least 5,000 government-controlled documents.
Federal agents said they also discovered thousands of emails exchanged between Erice’s email account and email accounts associated with the Newport Aeronautical Sales Corp. Posey, 36, and Mirabal, 52, are employees of the company.
The affidavit alleges that Posey and Mirabal were aware of the proper procedures to acquire government-controlled technical drawings and manuals and should thus have known that acquisition of such documents from Fitting or Erice was unlawful.
The felony offense of theft of government property carries a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.
The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California’s International Narcotics, Money Laundering and Racketeering Section.
Nguyen writes for Times Community News.
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