When traveling in countries across the world, one will likely see a number of items closely resembling American-made products, including iPods, laptop computers, and even automobiles. Engineers involved in the creation of these high-tech gadgets often take their insiders knowledge abroad for large sums of money. Although this seems like a great way to make easy money, it is important to understand that intellectual property theft charges are very serious. A perfect example was brought to the attention of criminal defense lawyers in Michigan, as a former General Motors engineer was arrested after attempting to sell automobile trade secrets to China in return for a monetary reward.
In 2000, Shanshan Du, 51, started working for General Motors specializing in hybrid vehicle efforts. While employed there, she collected a number of secret design documents and computer files explaining how the environmentally-friendly cars are made. However, after leaving General Motors in 2005, Du and her husband Yu Qin, 49, attempted to sell the information to foreign countries under the name of their startup company, Millennium Technology International.
The two were charged with destruction of evidence
Qin bragged to coworkers that the two had secured a deal with China, supplying hybrid technology documents in exchange for cash. However, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the intellectual information never reached China. In fact, their pursuit for compensation started to come apart in 2006 when federal agents began to investigate the two for intellectual property theft charges. Du and Qin started to destroy documents so that if discovered, they would not be held liable. This strategy back fired, and the two were charged with destruction of evidence in addition to the serious criminal charges the would have already been facing.
Law enforcement officials finally arrested the couple after the FBI seized a flash-drive from Qin containing stolen documents. Additional evidence was discovered when investigators obtained copies of e-mail correspondence between the suspects and Chinese automobile manufacturers, attempting to securing a sale of the documents. This information was sufficient to allow police to arrest Du and Qin on a slew of offenses including conspiracy charges in Michigan and wire fraud.
This is not the first time that Chinese car makers have attempted to infiltrate American intellectual design secrets. For example, the Chery QQ minicar, released in 2002, was almost identical inside and out to the General Motors’ Chevrolet Spark. The close resemblance has caused accusations to fly for years, but for many Americans, arrests such as those described above confirm US auto maker’s suspicions. As more examples of intellectual property theft pop up in the state of Michigan and across the country, law enforcement officials are on the lookout for individuals attempting to sell American secrets abroad. Now that the issue has caught the attention of police nationwide, prosecuting and convicting defendants of these charges is more likely than in the past.
This increased law enforcement accentuates the need for suspects of intellectual property crimes to seek the best legal defense possible as soon as law enforcement or corporate officials become involved in an investigation. A hard-working and experienced criminal defense attorney in Michigan can provide the superior legal advice and legal representation needed to protect your personal rights and freedoms, keeping you at home and work as opposed to in jail or prison.