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4 charged with stealing US military weapons documents to sell to Newport Beach company

A gavel cracks down. (Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid/U.S. Air Force)

Four people accused of stealing technical drawings and manuals related to military weapon systems and selling the information to a Newport Beach company are facing federal charges.

Mark Fitting, of Berlin, New Jersey, Melony Erice, of Lighthouse Point, Florida and Costa Mesa residents George Posey IV and Dean Mirabal have all been charged with theft of government property.

Improperly obtained military information was allegedly sold to Newport Beach-based Newport Aeronautical Sales Corp.

Fitting, 53, is a civilian Navy engineer who worked at a military facility in Philadelphia; Erice, 54, lived with Fitting in New Jersey. Posey, 36, and Mirabal, 52, both work for Newport Aeronautical Sales, which sells technical aircraft data, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Prosecutors say the alleged thefts and sale of the military information was going on since at least 2012, and possibly back to 2008. Newport Aeronautical Sales is accused of re-selling the allegedly improperly obtained documents to domestic and foreign customers.

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Officials with Newport Aeronautical Sales could not be immediately reached for comment.

The military first began looking into Fitting after he was accused of “interfering with the quality assurance process” for aircraft canopies to be used in military aircraft, according to a sworn statement by an investigator.

The investigators discovered in Fitting’s Navy email account two-dozen emails to Erice containing “government-controlled technical drawings or manuals related to various military weapons systems,” according to court filings.

As part of his civilian job, Fitting could access military computer systems in return for a pledge to “safeguard” the data, according to federal prosecutors.

Prosecutors allege that Fitting and Erice sold Newport Aeronautical Sales “at least 5,000 government-controlled technical manuals and drawings.”

In return, prosecutors allege, Eirce received 150 checks totalling a little more than $500,000 from Newport Aeronautical Sales, money he is accused of splitting with Fitting.

At times, prosecutors allege Fitting and Erice obtained specific documents requested by Newport Aeronautical Sales.

An affidavit filed along with the criminal complaint alleges that Mirabal requested that Fitting obtain technical drawings for a military landing craft air cushion. Prosecutors allege that Posey paid Erice a little more than $5,000 for those technical drawings.

Prosecutors say Mirabal and Posey, the Newport Aeronautical Sales employees, are “aware of the appropriate processes to procure government-controlled technical manuals” and therefore should have know the way they allegedly obtained the information from Fitting and Erice was “unlawful.”

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© 2020 The Orange County Register