LOS ANGELES - A Southern California engineer has been sentenced to five years in federal prison for his guilty plea to economic espionage and violating the Arms Export Control Act by selling military information to a phony Russian spy.
According to court records, Culver City man Gregory Allen Justice, 49, pleaded guilty in May to charges stemming from an undercover sting operation in which he sold sensitive satellite information to an FBI agent who said he was a Russian intelligence officer.
The investigation into Justice took on a surreal aspect of life imitating art when he told the undercover agent that he was enamored with spy thrillers, including the TV show "The Americans."
The series is about a pair of Russian spies living in the United States during the Cold War and digging up secrets and sending them back to Moscow.
Justice worked on commercial and military satellites that were sold to the Air Force, Navy and NASA.
He also told the would-be Russian spy he needed money to care for his sick wife, but bank records showed Justice was actually spending his money on another woman who persuaded him to send money and gifts through the mail, court records show.
Last month, prosecutors filed a brief with U.S. District Judge George H. Wu, recommending he sentence Justice to seven years and three months in prison after they revealed Justice asked the would-be spy for Anectine, a powerful muscle relaxant that can cause cardiac arrest in overdoses.
Justice told the agent that doctors had given the drug to his wife in the past and he wanted to use it to help ease her chronic problems breathing during sleep. Prosecutors said that excuse was a lie, and alleged that Justice intended to use the drug to kill her.
Justice expressed remorse in court for his actions, but prosecutors pushed for a tougher sentence regardless.
The judge said he was most troubled by Justice's apparent willingness to provide commercial and military information to the Russian government.
"We are talking about information from several different programs," said Tom Mrozek, a spokesman for the D.A.'s office. "Some of it was commercial satellites, others had defense applications."
Mrozek said Justice compromised national security.