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Defense contractor pleads guilty to selling inferior, Turkish-made parts for U.S. weapons systems

By Mike Heuer
A Florida-based military contractor pleaded guilty to conspiring to sell military components made in Turkey for use in Nimitz-class aircraft carriers, such as the USS Ronald Reagan (pictured anchored at Fleet Activities Yokosuka in Kanagawa-Prefecture, Japan in 2023). File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI
A Florida-based military contractor pleaded guilty to conspiring to sell military components made in Turkey for use in Nimitz-class aircraft carriers, such as the USS Ronald Reagan (pictured anchored at Fleet Activities Yokosuka in Kanagawa-Prefecture, Japan in 2023). File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

May 8 (UPI) -- A Florida man pleaded guilty to 25 felony counts for defrauding the United States by using a front company to sell military components made by a banned Turkish company, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Wednesday.

Orlando, Fla., resident Yuksel Senbol, 36, pleaded guilty to conspiracies to defraud the United States and commit wire fraud, money laundering and violate the Export Control Reform Act.

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She also pleaded guilty to eight counts of wire fraud, seven counts of money laundering, four counts of violating the ECRA and one count of violating the Arms Export Control Act.

"Senbol and her co-conspirators falsely represented to the U.S. government and to U.S. military contractors that Mason Engineering Parts LLC was a vetted and qualified manufacturer of military components," according to the DOJ.

"In fact, the parts were being manufactured by [Mehmet] Ozcan and [Onur] Simsek in Turkey," the DOJ said.

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Senbol faces up to 10 years in prison for conspiring to defraud the United States and up to 20 years for each of the other counts to which she pleaded guilty.

Florida federal court documents say Senbol owned and operated a front company called Mason Engineering Parts with a business address in Lake Alfred, Fla.

The DOJ says Senbol operated the company starting in about April 2019 and used it to help co-conspirators to "fraudulently procure contracts to supply critical military components to the Department of Defense."

Senbol, Ozcan and Simsek used the front company to sell components intended for use in U.S. Navy Nimitz- and Ford-class aircraft carriers, Navy submarines and U.S. Marine Corps armored vehicles, according to the DOJ.

The DOJ also says the trio conspired to sell Turkish-made components for the U.S. Army's M-60 tanks, M1 Abrams tanks and other military systems.

Senbol knew she had to conceal Simsek's involvement in the scheme because the federal government had barred him from contracting with the U.S. government after an earlier conviction for a virtually identical scheme in Florida.

The DOJ says Senbol helped Ozcan and Simsek obtain "sensitive,export-controlled drawings of critical U.S. military technology" by using software enabling them to remotely control her computer and evade security restrictions that limited access to the drawings to computers located in the United States.

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"Senbol knowingly facilitated the illegal export of these drawings ... despite having executed numerous agreements promising to safeguard the drawing from unlawful access or export," the DOJ said.

Ozcan and Simsek manufactured the components in Turkey and shipped them to Senbol to repackage them after removing any references to their Turkish origins.

After selling them to the federal government, the DOJ says Senbol laundered the proceeds by using international wire transfers to send hundreds of thousands of dollars to her co-conspirators in Turkey.

Federal investigators uncovered the scheme after the U.S. military tested the parts and determined they didn't meet product specifications, which could have disabled the respective military weapons systems if they were installed.

The FBI and other federal agencies investigated the matter. It was prosecuted in a Middle District of Florida federal court.

Senbol has an Aug. 6 sentencing hearing scheduled. Ozcan and Simsek are fugitives.

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