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GM worker, husband charged in conspiracy to steal trade secrets related to hybrid vehicles

A former General Motors worker and her husband were charged in a conspiracy to steal trade secrets related to hybrid vehicles, according to a federal indictment unsealed, announced the Department of Justice and FBI. The seven-count indictment accuses the couple, Shanshan Du and Yu Qin, of conspiracy to possess trade secrets without authorization, unauthorized possession of trade secrets, and wire fraud.

From December 2003 through May 2006, the defendants conspired to obtain trade secret information from GM relating to hybrid vehicles, knowing that the information had been stolen, converted, or obtained without authorization. The indictment alleges that Du, while employed at GM, provided GM trade secret information relating to hybrid vehicles to her husband, Qin, for his benefit and for the benefit of a company, Millennium Technology International Inc (MTI) that the defendants owned and operated.

Approximately five days after Du was offered a severance agreement by GM in January 2005, she allegedly copied thousands of GM documents, including trade secret documents, to an external computer hard drive used for MTI business. A few months later, Qin moved forward on a new business venture to provide hybrid vehicle technology to Chery Automobile, a Chinese automotive manufacturer based in China and a competitor of GM. The indictment further alleges that in May 2006, the defendants possessed GM trade secret information without authorization on several computer and electronic devices located in their residence. In addition, the defendants allegedly drove to a dumpster behind a grocery store where defendant Qin discarded plastic bags containing shredded documents responsive to federal grand jury subpoenas seeking information relating to MTI and hybrid vehicles, according to the indictment.

GM, which has been involved in the development and production of hybrid vehicles for over a decade, estimates that the value of the stolen GM documents is over $40 million. US Attorney Barbara McQuade of the Eastern District of Michigan said, “As our auto industry works to find new areas of innovation, such as hybrid technology, we will not tolerate the theft of our trade secrets from foreign competitors,” She continued: “We will aggressively prosecute people who steal from the investment that our auto industry has made in research and development.”

The conspiracy to possess trade secrets without authorization count and each of the counts charging unauthorized possession of trade secrets carry a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. The wire fraud counts each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. The obstruction of justice count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.