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According to the Department of Justice, 49 year-old Mike Yu has pleaded guilty to two counts of theft of trade secrets. Yu worked as a product engineer for Ford for 10 years before accepting a job with another company, but when he left the Blue Oval, he took more than his family photos with him when he walked out the door. The engineer copied over 4,000 Ford documents onto an external hard drive before letting the company know of his new employer. Those documents included proprietary information on everything from engine and transmission mounting designs to electrical systems and full body shells. Yu began working for Beijing Automotive Company in 2008.
Yu returned to the United States in November of that same year, and was arrested upon his arrival. The Federal Bureau of Investigation found a Beijing Automotive Company laptop among Yu's possessions at that time with 41 Ford design specification documents on its hard drive. Yu had apparently accessed those documents while working for the company.

Under his plea agreement, Yu faces up to six and a half years in prison and a $150,000 fine in addition to an agreed loss amount of between $50 million and $100 million. The former engineer will be deported after his prison time is up. Follow the jump to read the official government statement.

[Source: The Department of Justice]
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Chinese National Pleads Guilty to Stealing Ford Trade Secrets

Former Ford employee, XIANG DONG YU, aka MIKE YU, 49, of Beijing, China, pleaded guilty today in federal court to two counts of theft of trade secrets, announced Barbara L. McQuade, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. McQuade was joined in the announcement by Andrew G. Arena, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI.

According to the plea agreement in this case, YU was a Product Engineer for the Ford Motor Company from 1997 to 2007 and had access to Ford trade secrets, including Ford design documents. In December 2006, YU accepted a job at the China branch of a U.S. company. On the eve of his departure from Ford and before he told Ford of his new job, YU copied some 4,000 Ford documents onto an external hard drive, including sensitive Ford design documents.

Included in those documents were system design specifications for the Engine/Transmission Mounting Subsystem, Electrical Distribution system, Electric Power Supply, Electrical Subsystem and Generic Body Module, among others. Ford spent millions of dollars and decades on research, development, and testing to develop and continuously improve the design specifications set forth in these documents. The majority of the design documents copied by the defendant did not relate to his work at Ford. On December 20, 2006, the defendant traveled to the location of his new employer in Shenzhen, China, taking the Ford trade secrets with him. On January 2, 2007, YU emailed his Ford supervisor from China and informed him that he was leaving Ford's employ.

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.

Under the plea agreement, YU faces a sentence of between 63-78 months' imprisonment based on an agreed loss amount of more than $50 million and less than $100 million and a fine of up to $150,000. The agreement also provides that YU will be deported from the United States after completing any term of incarceration.

"We will vigilantly protect the intellectual property of our U.S. automakers, who invest millions of dollars and decades of time in research and development to compete in a global economy," McQuade said. "Those who do not play by the rules will be brought to justice."

Special Agent Arena stated, "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."

YU remains in federal custody and is scheduled to be sentenced on February 23, 2011 at 10:00 a.m..
The investigation of this case had been conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Cathleen Corken.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 40 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      China has no regard for IP and in fact they consider it quite legit to copy - the fast trains are a classic example. They should also go after the Chinese car company which employed this joker.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Let's tax him while he's here. I say he pays the capital gains tax on the estimated $50 million in trade secrets he stole. Now maybe that would stop future would be thieves, not only jail time, but financial ruin as well.
        • 4 Years Ago
        It's ill gotten gains. Don't tax it. Take it all. Hit him with Treble Damages while you're at it.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Frickin' Chinese--I say don't sell their wares when they come to market or tax the crap out of their imports. Dirty buggers.
        • 4 Years Ago
        That'll solve some things, indeed.
      • 4 Years Ago
      The chinese are legendary for their abuse as immigrants to the west in this way. The west takes them in and provides priviledge to them in very high paying professional positions. This is how china got its powerfull nuclear arsenal as priviledged and trusted china born scientists and engineers being granted access to our trillions of dollars of nuclear weapons research abused the trust placed in them.

      Its a good thing german immigrants to america did not think and behave this way or hitler would never have lost the war.
      • 4 Years Ago
      wait so Special Agent Arena stated, "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." but according to republicans we should have let gm and Chrysler go belly up.. so how can stolen stuff from ford be a threat to national security? after all the republicans has made it clear the automakers do not matter! DO YOU MEAN THE REPUBLICANS LIED, OH MY GAWD NO WAY :)
      • 4 Years Ago
      So what secrets did he steal?
        • 4 Years Ago
        At $50M, it's (relatively) small stuff - nothing like GM's Volt development.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Oover 60% of the PhD holders in the US are of foreign born origin. Which means in a matter of 50 years all of those tech savy inventors will leave the US and venture home, only if those nations can secure their patent rights. Why would a scientist go to China (they are offering free labs and staff to many bright US based scientists) if their work will be copied?
      • 4 Years Ago
      Just another business day. Americans stealing from Japanese automakers, Chinese stealing from American automakers.

      So what's the big news?
        • 4 Years Ago
        @GeeDougg: I see where the confusion is coming from and we were both misled. I was looking at the Totals section because it states the numbers in "per million people" but I see what you mean when you go to the par capita section which also gives you numbers "per million people" but very strange numbers. I immediately thought that the per capita section is filled with errors because there's no way that countries like Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan with their poor education systems and economies can produce more patents per capita than the US.

        So I went to the source data at the WIPO website (nation master uses old data anyway) for 2010 and their numbers show that Japan produced 239k patents, the US produced 147k and Finland 4,700 as the representative of Northwestern Europe (because you think they're the most innovative). Japan's population is around 25x that of Finland, but it produces around 48x more patents. So per capita, Japan produces far more patents.

        ANYWAY, this wasn't meant to be a "my country is better than yours" argument. The point is that Japan and South Korea are far from uncreative.

        /off topic
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Dest,

        Even according to your own link you're wrong about that. You're confusing total number of patents with patents per capita. For the economic giants and large population (combined, anyway) that South Korea and Japan are (and, expectedly, SHOULD BE), they fair poorly against much smaller countries with South Korea at 14th place and Japan at 19th. Last I'd read a very similar list - though probably by a different stats firm and from a previous year - Sweden and a large collective of other European countries (mostly from North Western Europe) have always been clumped together in the top 10 of such listings relating to economic efficiency, productivity, sustainability, growth, innovation, etc. per capita. Even according to your own list that's easily confirmed, as Luxembourg, Slovenia, Iceland, Malta, Finland, Latvia, Sweden, Ireland, New Zealand, and Switzerland round out the top 10, with New Zealand being the only non-European country at number 9. This is a continuing trend, and always has been. I may not be European, but I wouldn't shy away from admitting that they lead the world in innovation.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The big news is he is going to jail.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @i-rate: That's funny. Last I checked, South Korea and Japan produce far more patents per capita than any other country.

        http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/eco_pat_gra-economy-patents-granted
        • 4 Years Ago
        Uh, Americans stealing from the Japanese? I think you have it the other way around. The Japanese have long copied American and European manufacturers, although they manage to take their ideas and make them work, make them better, and profitable.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Interesting comments on cultures.

        What does our blind obedience to TSA and "only following orders" say about Americans and our culture?

        Baaa, baaa...
        • 4 Years Ago
        @joey
        You have that ass backwards, the Japanese have stolen most of their technology and are still doing it.
        • 4 Years Ago
        What are you talking about?? Please provide some evidence that the Americans are stealing from the Japanese.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I hope Mr. Yu ends up in a penal facility with hard core violent offenders. Unfortunately, he will end up in a minimum security Club Fed.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Reopen Gitmo and throw him in there for those 6 years. Then give him life in some other prison. It's time to build our economy separate from china's and to make sure people know not to screw with it this time.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Why is it that Tom Delay is facing life in prison and this treasonous sonuvabitch is going to China after a few years in the can?

      Stand him up in Chinatown and execute him by firing squad.
      • 4 Years Ago
      That son of a bitch is going to be welcomed with open arms and a heroes welcome when hes released to China.

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