Ex-Motorola Programmer Accused of Stealing Secrets Goes on Trial
By Andrew Harris – Nov 7, 2011 12:00 AM ET
An ex-Motorola Inc. software engineer faces trial for economic espionage after she was stopped by U.S. customs agents at a Chicago airport while allegedly carrying 1,000 company documents, $30,000 and a one-way ticket to China.
Hanjuan Jin, 41, a Chinese-born naturalized U.S. citizen, is accused of stealing mobile telecommunications technology for the benefit of China’s military and for a Beijing business, Kai Sun News (Beijing) Technology Co., also known as SunKaisens.
Jin last week waived her right a jury and will be tried by U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo in Chicago starting today. If convicted on any of the three Chinese-military-related charges, she faces as long as 15 years in prison, while the maximum penalty for each of the remaining counts is 10 years.
“Chinese actors are the world’s most active and persistent perpetrators of economic espionage,” U.S. intelligence officials said in a report issued on Nov. 3.
Of seven federal cases prosecuted under the U.S. Economic Espionage Act last year, six involved a link to China, according to the report by the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive.
The intelligence report highlighted the case of David Yen Lee, a former Valspar Corp. (VAL) chemist who last year pleaded guilty to stealing trade secrets with plans to take them to a new employer in China.
U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman in Chicago sentenced Lee 15 months in prison and ordered him to pay $30,975 in restitution. The proprietary paint formulas he downloaded from the Minneapolis-based company were worth as much as $20 million, according to the intelligence report.
An ex-Dow AgroSciences LLC researcher, Kexue Huang, last month admitted to stealing trade secrets from that company for the benefit of China’s Hunan Normal University. He also admitted in federal court in Indianapolis to stealing trade secrets from the Minneapolis grain distributor Cargill Inc.
Financial losses from his conduct exceeded $7 million, according to a U.S. Justice Department statement. No sentencing date has been set.
Jin, the former Motorola employee facing trial today, maintains she is innocent.
Her attorney, Beth Westman Gaus of Chicago’s Federal Public Defender’s office, said she was preparing for trial and declined to comment on her client’s case.
Since Jin was stopped in February 2007 at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, her former employer has split into two companies. Libertyville, Illinois-based Motorola Mobility Inc., a mobile phone maker, spun off in January and is being acquired by Google Inc. for $12.5 billion if the Justice Department grants antitrust clearance.
Two-way radio and wireless network builder Motorola Solutions Inc. remains at the former company’s location in Schaumburg, Illinois.
“Motorola Solutions has cooperated with the government throughout its investigation and prosecution of this case, and continues to fully cooperate with the Department of Justice,” Nicholas Sweers, a company spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement.
Jin also is being sued by Motorola Solutions over claims she was working for another Schaumburg-based telecommunications company, Lemko Corp., at the same time she was employed by Motorola.
Closely held Lemko’s chief executive officer, Nicholas Labun, and Chief Operating Officer Bohdan Pyskir are former Motorola executives who are now co-defendants with Lin in the civil suit.
The U.S. claims that while still working for Motorola, Jin took a one-year leave of absence starting in February 2006 for medical reasons. During that time, she allegedly accepted employment at a Chinese company later identified in court filings as SunKaisens.
On Feb. 24, 2007, she bought a plane ticket to China with a date four days later, according to the December 2008 revised indictment. Returning to work at Motorola on Feb. 26, 2007, she allegedly began downloading technical and confidential documents from the company’s computers and did so again the next day before and after telling her manager she was resigning.
U.S. customs officials discovered her cache of 1,000 Motorola documents, according to the indictment against her. The U.S. alleges she had Chinese military documents, too. Motorola said in its civil complaint that she also had $30,000.
“If the Motorola proprietary trade secrets and confidential information found in defendant Jin’s possession were replicated by a competitor, Motorola would suffer many millions of dollars in harm,” according to the company’s civil complaint.
Jin was arrested in March 2008.
Lemko denies receiving any purloined information from Jin, according to a statement e-mailed to Bloomberg News by outside spokesman Raymond Minkus.
“We believe Motorola initiated this suit to cover up its mishandling of the Jin employment matter,” Minkus said, “including its overreaction to the volume and the value of the reputed trade secrets — if the information was secret at all.”
The criminal case is U.S. v. Jin, 08-cr-192, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago). The civil case is Motorola Inc. v. Lemko Corp., 08-cv-5427, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).
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