Former Ford engineer Xiang Dong Yu, also known as Mike Yu, was arrested Wednesday at the Chicago O'Hare airport and indicted on suspicion of stealing trade secrets from his former employer. Yu, who worked at Ford Motor Company from 1997 to 2007, is being charged with downloading over 4,000 sensitive documents to an external hard drive before leaving the automaker for an opportunity with another U.S. company's Chinese operations. Yu was nabbed while arriving in the U.S. from China where he was stationed.

The Free Press is reporting that Yu is being charged with stealing "system design specifications connected to engine and transmission mounting systems; outside rear view windows; sliding doors; steering wheel assembly; interior trim; wipers and washers systems; front/rear side door; instrument panel and console systems; sound and heat control and electric power systems."

Those sound like some serious charges, and if Yu is convicted he can do some even more serious time behind bars. Each count of the theft of trade secrets carries a 10 year term in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Yu is also charged with unauthorized access of a protected computer, which carries a five year term in the clink and a $250,000 fine. Detroit FBI Special Agent in Charge Andrew Arena told the Free Press that the Bureau takes the trade secrets of the auto industry very seriously, adding that "theft of trade secrets is a threat to national security and investigating allegations involving theft of trade secrets is a priority for the FBI."

Ford is understandably being silent right now in light of the seriousness of what's going on, and at this point we have no idea if any of Ford's important information fell into the hands of the wrong people. Since Yu is just now being brought to justice, it will likely be some time before all the details materialize. Regardless, it will be interesting to see if Yu shopped the illegal data and if there were any takers.

[Source: Free Press | Photo: U.S. Marshals Service]