(New throughout, adds background and details about case)
Jan 21 (Reuters) - A former engineer for defense contractors has been indicted on charges that he tried to send Iran secret details on the U.S. Air Force's F-35 joint strike fighter program, the office of the U.S. Attorney for Connecticut said on Tuesday.
The accused man, Mozaffar Khazaee, a dual U.S. and Iranian citizen, was arrested on Jan. 9 at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, after he flew from Indianapolis to Newark, with Tehran as his final destination, prosecutors said.
Khazaee, who moved recently from Connecticut to Indianapolis, was charged with two counts of transporting, transmitting and transferring in interstate commerce goods obtained by theft, conversion or fraud, according to the indictment. He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
Federal agents began investigating Khazaee, 59, in November when officers with U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspected a shipment of boxes he sent by truck from Connecticut to a freight forwarding company in Long Beach, California, prosecutors said.
The shipment, listed as containing household goods, actually held boxes of documents with sensitive technical manuals, specification sheets and other material relating to the F-35 program, and it was intended for shipment to Iran, prosecutors said.
Khazaee has been detained in New Jersey pending his transportation to Connecticut to face charges. He has not yet been arraigned in the case. (Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and David Gregorio)