A former employee of General Motors Company and her husband were charged in U.S. federal court this week with conspiracy to sell stolen trade secrets regarding hybrid vehicle technology to Chinese auto manufacturer Chery Automobile.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark A. Randon presided and the couple stood silent while being charged with conspiracy and other charges. The investigation of the former GM engineer and her husband has been underway for years, and in 2006 they were charged with document destruction in a case that was later dropped as a larger probe continued.
Shanshan “Shannon” Du was hired ten years ago in GM’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Group. It was later discovered that five days after accepting a buyout offer from the company in 2005, Du copied thousands of pages of hybrid vehicle technology information belonging to GM onto a portable hard drive. The current indictment states that the couples alleged thefts began as early as 2003.
The estimated value of the stolen information is approximately $40 million, says the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
GM spokesperson Tom Wilkinson said, “We cooperated with the authorities in developing the case, and will continue to cooperate as appropriate.” Wilkinson would not comment further regarding the case.
Shanshan Du’s husband, Yu Qin, is also an engineer. The couple lives in Troy, Michigan and he was employed by an electrical systems and equipment company, Controlled Power Company, which is based there. In the summer of 2003, Qin began telling people about a deal he had with Chery Automobile to provide them with hybrid technology information, according to the indictment.
In 2000, the couple had created a business in Troy called Millenium Technology International. Controlled Power then discovered the portable hard drive containing the GM hybrid information and notified GM of the alleged theft, says Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathleen Corkren. GM then notified the FBI.
Contained in the indictment are details regarding emailed conversations which offered data and plans belonging to GM.
According to Corkren, the indictment states that the trade secrets never made it to Chery Automobile. It also gives details about the couple destroying and discarding documents that had been requested by a federal grand jury investigating the alleged theft.
Andrew Arena, head of the FBI in Detroit, says, “Theft of trade secrets is a threat to national security.”
The couple was arrested this week. Unsecured bond was set for each at $10,000, and they were ordered not to travel out of the three-county area. Du and Qin asked for permission to go to Illinois in August in order to help their son begin college there.
Attorney for Qin, Frank Eaman, said, “It’s a surprise to us. This investigation has been going on so long, I figured if they had a basis, they would have charged them a long time ago.”
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