Iraniian-Born Engineer Pleads Guilty to Transporting Nuke Plant Software to Iran

An Iranian-born engineer has pleaded guilty to transporting stolen property, including training software, from a U.S. nuclear plant where he had worked to Iran.

Mohammad Reza Alavi, 50, pleaded guilty to the charge in a deal reached Tuesday with federal prosecutors, according to The Arizona Republic.

A federal jury last month had convicted Alavi of illegally accessing a protected computer but deadlocked on two other counts, and he faced a retrial.

He faces a maximum of 15 years in prison on both charges at a Sept. 29 sentencing.

Alavi, a naturalized U.S. citizen, worked for Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station west of Phoenix for 17 years.

Authorities said that after Alavi quit the station in 2006, he took a laptop to Iran containing training software with design schematics and other details of the plant. His material did not contain enough information to pose a security threat, Palo Verde officials have said.

But prosecutors said Alavi knew he was breaking federal law when he took the software to Iran and then downloaded codes to use it in Iran.

Last month, a jury convicted Alavi of illegally accessing a protected computer, but it deadlocked on one count of stealing protected software from the plant and one count of illegally exporting it in violation of the U.S. trade embargo with Iran.

As part of the plea deal, prosecutors dropped the charge of violating a U.S. trade embargo. Alavi also agreed not to appeal his conviction of illegally accessing a computer.

"We are pleased to have achieved a resolution with the government which fits the case and which enables Mr. Alavi and his family to move forward with their lives," defense attorney David Laufman said Tuesday.

After Alavi was arrested, Palo Verde operator Arizona Public Service promised to implement new security procedures.