Engineer at Defense Contractor who Sold Satellite Secrets to Person Posing as Russian Spy Sentenced to 5 Years in Federal Prison
LOS ANGELES – An engineer who worked for a defense contractor was sentenced this morning to 60 months in federal prison for selling sensitive satellite information he stole from his employer to a person he believed to be an agent of a Russian intelligence service.
Gregory Allen Justice, 50, of Culver City, who worked as an engineer on military and commercial satellite programs, was sentenced this morning by United States District Judge George H. Wu.
In imposing the sentence, Judge Wu said it was “extremely troubling” that Justice was willing to sell the secrets to the Russians because it is well known that their government “is not friendly to this country.”
Justice pleaded guilty in May to two counts – attempting to commit economic espionage, and attempting to send restricted information out of the United States in violation the Arms Export Control Act and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations. When he pleaded guilty, Justice admitted that he stole proprietary trade secrets from his employer and provided them to a person he believed to be a Russian agent – but who in fact was an undercover FBI employee.
In exchange for providing the trade secrets during a series of meetings over six months in 2016, Justice received $3,500 in cash. Justice “understood that the information he provided would be sent ‘back to Moscow and they will review this,’” according to court documents.
During one meeting with the undercover operative, Justice and the undercover agent discussed developing a relationship like one depicted on the television show “The Americans,” and during their final meeting, Justice offered to take the undercover agent on a tour of his employer’s production facility, and the putative Russian intelligence officer could wear glasses that would allow him to photograph the facility, according to court documents.
In court documents filed in relation to today’s sentencing, prosecutors said Justice sent most of the money he received from the undercover operative – and thousands of dollars more – to an “online paramour” he had never met.
“This defendant sold out his employer and betrayed his country in exchange for a few thousand dollars,” said Acting United States Attorney Sandra R. Brown. “His actions posed an imminent threat to our national security. By virtue of the excellent work of the FBI, there was no damage to our security interests, and a person who was willing to sell important information to a foreign power will now serve a considerable amount of time in a federal prison.”
“Unlike a reality television series, selling secrets to a foreign government is not entertaining, but in the wrong hands, threatens national security and puts American lives at risk,” said Danny Kennedy, the Acting Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “I’m proud of the undercover work of our agents and the partnership with the Air Force OSI, cleared defense contractors and the United States Attorney’s Office that led to the elimination of the threat Mr. Justice posed to the United States.”
The case against Justice was investigated by the FBI and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.
Prosecutors from the Terrorism and Export Crimes Section of the United States Attorney’s Office and the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section prosecuted this case.