DETROIT (WWJ) - A former General Motors engineer and her husband were convicted by a federal jury in Detroit for conspiring to steal hybrid technology trade secrets from GM with the intent to use them in a joint venture with an automotive competitor in China, announced U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade.
Shanshan Du, 51, and her husband, Yu Qin, 49, of Troy, were also convicted of unlawful possession of trade secrets after the month-long trial before U.S. District Judge Marianne Battani. Qin was also convicted of wire fraud and obstruction of justice.
Evidence presented at trial showed that from December 2003 through May 2006, Du and Qin conspired to steal GM’s trade secret information.
Prosecutors said Du, while employed with GM’s hybrid vehicle technology group, provided GM trade secret information relating to hybrid vehicles to her husband, Qin, for the benefit of their private company, Millennium Technology International Inc. (MTI), which they jointly owned and operated.
Approximately five days after Du was offered a severance agreement by GM in January 2005, she copied more than 16,000 GM files, including trade secret documents, to an external computer hard drive used for MTI business, according to court documents. A few months later, Qin moved forward on a business venture to provide hybrid vehicle technology to Chery Automobile, an automotive manufacturer based in China and a competitor of GM.
In May 2006, during the execution of a search warrant, the FBI recovered multiple computer devices containing GM trade secret information on several computer and electronic devices located in the defendants’ residence.
Shortly after the FBI search, Du and Qin allegedly drove to a dumpster behind a grocery store where Qin discarded plastic bags containing shredded documents, including GM trade secret information, that were responsive to federal grand jury subpoenas seeking information relating to MTI and hybrid vehicles.
GM has been involved in the development and production of hybrid vehicles for more than a decade and has invested many millions of dollars in the research and development of hybrid vehicles. Based on preliminary calculations, GM estimates that the value of the stolen GM documents is more than $40 million.
“These defendants stole trade secrets, which General Motors spent many years and millions of dollars to develop, to give an unfair advantage to a foreign competitor,” McQuade said in a statement. “Stealing trade secrets harms Michigan businesses and costs jobs. We are committed to protecting Michigan’s technology, and we hope that this prosecution will send a message that stealing proprietary information from an employer or competitor is a serious crime.”
Du and Qin face a maximum term of imprisonment of ten years on each of the three trade secret counts of conviction. Yu faces an additional maximum term of imprisonment of thirty years on each of the three wire fraud counts of conviction and a maximum of twenty years on the obstruction of justice count.
A sentencing date will be set by the court in February 2013.