By PAUL ANDERSON
SANTA ANA, Calif. – A 56-year-old New Jersey man was sentenced Friday to 41 months in federal prison for using his access as a civilian U.S. Navy employee to take technical drawings and manuals for military aircraft and selling them.
Mark Fitting of Berlin, New Jersey, worked as an engineer in a Navy facility in Philadelphia. He pleaded guilty in Dec. 8, 2020.
The investigation started with Fitting and led to co-defendant Melony Erice, 57, of Lighthouse Point, Florida, who was Fitting’s girlfriend and was living with him at the time. U.S. District Judge David O. Carter sentenced Erice to 18 months in federal prison on Friday.
Co-defendant George Posey IV, 39, of Costa Mesa, who worked at Newport Aeronautical Sales Corporation in Newport Beach, is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 24.
Co-defendant Dean Mirabal of Costa Mesa, who also worked at Newport Aeronautical has since died, federal prosecutors said.
Fitting was given until Feb. 12 to report to prison. He was also ordered to make $589,000 in restitution.
Fitting’s attorney, Diane Bass, argued for home confinement so he could continue looking after his 90-year-old mother.
Bass downplayed the crime, saying the documents were not secret and could be obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.
“These were not secret documents,” she said, adding that special credentials such as the ones Fitting had were required to get them.
“His only crime was taking money to sell the drawings,” Bass said.
The drawings depict “simply parts for legacy aircraft,” Bass argued.
Bass accused Erice of being “the mastermind” behind the scheme to sell the drawings.
“Mr. Fitting took her in and tried to help her get clean,” Bass said.
Fitting sold two pieces of property to pay back $180,000 and was trying to sell a condo in Florida for a few years, Bass said. The government also seized $98,000 from the defendant.
“There’s no actual loss to the government,” she said. “They still have the drawings. The restitution in this case is a fiction.”
Fitting has performed 950 hours of community service since he was charged three years ago. He said he has worked with the homeless and another church program that helps the elderly.
“I’d like to say I’m sorry to the court, my family, my friends,” Fitting told Carter. “I stand before you a convicted felon who lost a job I loved… I was trying to help Melony get over her addiction. And I didn’t want it to affect my lifestyle so I started selling the drawings that I should have given away.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Varun Behl argued for 57 months behind bars.
“It was tantamount to providing foreign access” to military documents, Behl said.
Behl added that the drawings were more valuable than the defense attorney tried to argue.
“The fact that Mr. Fitting was able to obtain half a million dollars undercuts the argument they’re easily available to the public,” Behl said.
Carter noted that Fitting had access to the documents unlike the other defendants and was “the most culpable.”
Carter added, however, that he was “struggling” with sending the defendant to prison because of his mother. Fitting said he could not afford to place her in a care facility, but he has a brother who lives about 70 miles away.
Carter gave Fitting credit for being “genuinely remorseful” and for doing the community service.
“But you’re driving the engine of these transgressions,” Carter said.
Fitting must participate in a gambling and drug abuse addiction programs while in custody.