A former General Motors engineer and her husband were convicted on Friday of stealing trade secrets for possible use in China. The former engineer had access to the automaker’s hybrid technology.
The woman, Shanshan Du, won a transfer within GM in 2003 that put her close enough to the technology to copy documents for it. She kept copying them until she accepted a severance offer in 2005 and left the company, reports CBS News.
Du and Yu Quin were found guilty by a federal jury in Detroit after a weeks-long trial. Qin has also been convicted of wire fraud and attempted obstruction of justice by shredding documents.
No sentencing date has been set for either, but they could face up to 20 years in prison. GM trade secrets were discovered on at least seven of the couples’ computers. The government doesn’t think the secrets ever made it to China, though Qin set up a company, Millennium Technology International, and claimed that he made contact with GM competitors overseas.
Bloomberg notes that General Motors contended that the stolen trade secrets are worth $40 million. Lawyers for the defendants, who both pleaded not guilty, have contended that the papers collected by the former GM engineer weren’t trade secrets. They stated that the documents also were not stolen and were useless to other countries.
After the verdict was read, US Attorney Barbara McQuade stated:
“These defendants stole trade secrets, which General Motors spent many years and millions of dollars to develop, to give an unfair advantage to a foreign competitor. We hope that this prosecution will send a message that stealing proprietary information from an employer or competitor is a serious crime.”
Lawyers for the two convicted of stealing GM trade secrets have not commented on the verdict.