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Courts: Family put Navy at risk

Newport Coast residents could face five years in prison apiece if convicted of selling falsified circuits used in military equipment.

October 16, 2009|By Joseph Serna

When integrated circuits — a minuscule but sophisticated semiconductor found in medical equipment, aircraft and spacecraft — malfunction in electronic equipment, serious injury, electrical shock and even death could occur, federal court documents show.

These were the risks to which a Newport Coast family exposed U.S. Navy personnel by allegedly selling that military branch counterfeited integrated circuits, according to the unsealed contents of a federal indictment recently posted online.

The 11-count indictment, unsealed in Washington D.C. last week, outlines how Mustafa Abdul Aljaff, 29, his sister Marwah Felahy, 32, and her husband, Neil Felahy, 32, sold the Navy integrated circuits that allegedly were falsified as military grade.

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As recently as July 28, the three sent a shipment of the counterfeit circuits to the Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington D.C., according to the indictment.

Prosecutors claim the family ran two scams at once under several fake business names. On one side, the three were importing counterfeit integrated circuits from Shenzhen Guangdong, China.

They ordered 13,073 of the components bearing counterfeit marks that included “military grade” markings worth more than $140,000, prosecutors claim.

Military-grade integrated circuits undergo more rigorous testing than average, consumer-grade circuits. They must be able to withstand greater temperature variations and more violent, sustained vibrations, government officials said.

Among the problems that can happen when one of these circuits malfunctions is an open circuit where electricity doesn’t flow properly, preventing a device from turning on. Or if it short-circuits, the device may not switch off or the electrical current could improperly flow to other parts of the device, according to the indictment.

While some of the electronics allegedly trafficked were sent to a vacuum cleaner manufacturer in the Midwest, others were sent directly to Washington D.C. for unspecified parts.

The three each face more than five years in prison if convicted of all charges. Their next appearance is scheduled for later this month in federal court in Washington.


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