Espionage! A former Ford engineer charged with stealing trade secrets worth $50 million has pleaded guilty, and was apparently caught with the evidence on his laptop when he was arrested in Chicago in 2009. The man worked for Ford for 10 years before quitting the company to accept a position at a Ford competitor — Beijing Automotive.
From the United States Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Michigan:
The plea agreement further states that in November 2008, the defendant began working for Beijing Automotive Company, a direct competitor of Ford. On October 19, 2009, the defendant returned to the United States, flying into Chicago from China.
Upon his arrival, the defendant was arrested on a warrant issued upon the indictment in this case.
At that time, the defendant had in his possession his Beijing Automotive Company laptop computer. Upon examination of that computer, the FBI discovered that forty-one Ford system design specifications documents had been copied to the defendant’s Beijing Automotive Company work computer. The FBI also discovered that each of those design documents had been accessed by the defendant during the time of his employment with Beijing Automotive Company.
The statement also says that “on the eve of his departure from Ford and before he told Ford of his new job, [the employee] copied some 4,000 Ford documents onto an external hard drive, including sensitive Ford design documents.” The engineer faces at least 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000.
“Michigan, as well as the rest of the United States, is significantly impacted by the auto industry. Theft of trade secrets is a threat to national security and investigating allegations involving theft of trade secrets is a priority for the FBI. The FBI will continue to aggressively pursue these cases,” added an FBI spokesperson in the statement.