Guilty Plea in Corporate Espionage

Wednesday, September 21, 2011 @ 05:09 PM gHale

A former Indiana scientist has agreed to plead guilty to charges of illegally sending trade secrets worth $300 million to China and Germany.

A plea hearing for Kexue Huang will take place Oct. 18 in federal court in Indianapolis.

Huang could face up to 15 years in prison if the judge accepts his guilty plea. Huang agreed to plead guilty to one count of theft and attempted theft of trade secrets to benefit a foreign government and instrumentality in a document filed last month in U.S. District Court.

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Attorneys for Huang did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.

In the plea agreement, Huang, 46, who was born in China, admitted he passed on proprietary information about the development of organic pesticides while he worked as a researcher for Dow AgroSciences in Indiana. Huang passed along trade secrets — including biological materials — to a person at Hunan Normal University in China, according to the plea agreement. That person later went to the Technical University in Dresden, Germany, officials said.

Dow Agrosciences is a subsidiary of Midland, Mich.,-based Dow Chemical Co.

Huang is a Canadian citizen with permanent U.S. resident status.

The June 2010 indictment charged Huang with 12 counts of theft and attempted theft of trade secrets to benefit a foreign government and instrumentality under the Economic Espionage Act. He also faced charges of five counts of foreign transportation of stolen property.

The Economic Espionage Act passed in 1996 after the U.S. realized China and other countries were targeting private businesses as part of their spy strategies.

Officials said the Department of Justice has only filed economic espionage charges seven times. Two cases in 2009 resulted in trials, with one ending in a conviction and the other with a deadlocked jury.

The other cases settled before trial.

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