Ex-Ford Employee Admits Stealing Secrets Worth $50 Million

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.

Chinese National Pleads Guilty to Stealing Ford Trade Secrets [Justice.gov]


Edit Your Comment

  1. areaman says:

    I already knew not to do this but there’s another good reason why not to buy Chinese cars… they know so little they’re stealing secrets from Ford.

    • b612markt says:

      If you’re going to steal from any of the big 3 American automakers, Ford is the best choice. At least they weren’t stealing from Chrysler. That might have made the Chinese cars even more terrible.

  2. mcs328 says:

    Throw the book at him. They should up the prison time.

  3. Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

    DumbAss. If he left the country and was stupid enough to COME BACK with the stolen documents, he deserves all he gets, plus some just for being a DumbAss!

  4. qwickone says:

    I’m in no way defending the OP, however “Theft of trade secrets is a threat to national security”? I don’t get that part.

    • KhaiJB says:

      depends on what Ford are developing for the Military etc….

      • InsertPithyNicknameHere says:

        Okay, I didn’t think of that, and was originally wondering the same thing. Thanks for being a voice of reason, Khai.

      • fredbiscotti says:

        “Michigan, as well as the rest of the United States, is significantly impacted by the auto industry….” It isn’t just bullets and bombs that threaten American security. As the United States has stepped deeper and deeper into the realm of globalization, our national security interests are increasingly connected to international economics. A strong and vital Chinese automotive industry is a real threat to America’s productivity in the long-run.

    • human_shield says:

      Bejing Automotive now has the knowledge to add extra taillights to their cars and sell them as luxury models, duping American consumers.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      I work at a company that producers armor for the U.S. military. We have strict procedures on who can even enter the buildings and factory floors. Foreign nationals are not allowed except in extreme cases and a ton of paperwork.

      Ford might possibly do business with the U.S. goverment as well.

    • houstonspace says:

      When talking about export control, there is something called ‘dual-use’ technology. This is technology that may be used commercially, but have military applications. Seemingly simple technology may have serious military applications (i.e. accelerometers, crash avoidance technology, engine sensors). Ford has an advanced laboratory and the data stolen may be about technology going into vehicles up to 10 years from now. A number of countries are embargoed from receiving such technology, and others are highly-controlled. For example – China is restricted, but Syria, North Korea and Iran are completely embargoed. Checkout: http://export.stanford.edu/country.html for a complete list. Also, there is a GAO document excerpt that outlines the concept of Export Control nicely: http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d09725thigh.pdf

  5. savvy9999 says:

    and what about Beijing Motors? Can we bomb them? Give them lead-tainted drink glasses (probably made down the street)?

    Or just accept that the Chinese own the USA, and write a Sternly Worded Letter. >(

  6. golddog says:

    Ha! I read the headline and thought, “For who, Al Qaeda?”…”Osama we must go to America and obtain one of these Ford Exploders…”

    Maybe Ford can send a spy to Bejing and figure out how to make a Mustang differential, a valve cover that doesn’t let the spark plugs explode out of it, engines that don’t quit when it rains, an ignition system that makes some sense…

    • JayPhat says:

      I’m with you on the ignition system that makes sense. I changed the plugs and wires in a friends Explorer. I thought I was gonna kill someone by the time i was done.

  7. smartmuffin says:

    I’ll admit to be totally clueless on the subject, but I’m still amazed that “trade secrets” still exist. Is it really THAT hard to reverse-engineer a Ford Focus and find out what they’re doing?

    • Veeber says:

      Some of these are also manufacturing methods, source code on the various computers that they use, and also future design specifications and details.

  8. creative differences says:

    it should be “pled” not “plead” in the first sentence of the article.

  9. PBallRaven says:

    “Beijing Automotive.”

    This is my shocked face.

  10. RogalDorn says:

    Oh no, he exposed the trade secret of making cheap crap cars to china! please.

  11. mistersmith says:

    Go to YouTube and watch some Jiangling Motors crash test videos…if these trade secrets were at all safety related, we should be giving the guy a medal!

  12. balthisar says:

    If they’d been Chrysler or VW plans, we’d have given the guy some type of honor for being a wrecker.

  13. Eifnor says:

    Oh no! Tell me he didn’t steal the intermittent windshield wiper secret from Ford.

  14. JonBoy470 says:

    The Chinese are notorious for their industrial espionage. A great example of this was the Chery QQ, which was a virtual clone of GM’s Daewoo Matiz city car (which is coming soon to the US as the Chevrolet Spark). The two cars were in fact so similar, that GM removed the doors from a QQ, and bolted them onto their Matiz with no modification to either car.

    Of course, the QQ has scored significantly lower than the Matiz in every crash test ever conducted…

  15. jp7570-1 says:

    Ford is also giving design specs directly to Chinese suppliers. Several key components (like cam shafts) have been made in China for Ford for years.

  16. pot_roast says:

    Yet another example of us being ripped off by China. It happened to Ford, Cisco, (by Huawei, who is now a huge networking equipment provider that is trying to make sales in the US) and countless other corporations.

    We’re handing China the keys to the castle. CEOs are falling over themselves to open up offices in China to show that they’re a ‘global corporation.’ It’s similar to the dot com rush, but worse. The outsourcing to India trend was bad, but China does not see a problem with corporate theft.

  17. skapig says:

    Wow. Anyone traveling between China and the US should know not to keep any sensitive information on the computers that they travel with. Both countries may try to peek.

    • perruptor says:

      “May try to peek”? You underestimate them.

      Federal agents may take a traveler’s laptop or other electronic device to an off-site location for an unspecified period of time without any suspicion of wrongdoing, as part of border search policies the Department of Homeland Security recently [7/08] disclosed.

  18. AnthonyC says:

    There’s something odd about the idea that china, which so militantly polices it’s own population about state secrets, will freely accept trade secrets from other nations.