Dumb And Dumber: How Not To Spy
Xiang Dong “Mike” Yu, 49, of Beijing, pleaded guilty in federal court in Detroit to two counts of theft of trade secrets. He will be sentenced in February 23, 2011. He’s looking at anywhere between 5 and 6 years in the slammer. He will also have to pay a fine of $150,000. After serving his sentence, he will be deported from the United States. That’s a lenient sentence, only reached through a plea bargain.
In case you ever want to spy on your employer, here is what not to do:
Mike Yu worked as a product engineer for Ford from 1997 to 2007.
According to a statement by the U.S. Department of Justice, in December 2006, Yu accepted a job of Foxconn PCE Industry Inc. On the eve of his departure from Ford, Yu copied some 4,000 Ford documents onto an external hard drive, including sensitive Ford design documents. The next day, he flew off to Shenzhen, China, and began his work at Foxconn a week later.
On January 2, 2007, Yu e-mailed his resignation to his supervisor at Ford.
According to a Grand Jury Indictment, Yu applied for a job at GM’s joint venture partner SAIC, and used “a document that he compiled from Ford proprietary documents, misappropriated at the time of his departure from Ford and containing Ford trade secret information, in his efforts to secured employment with SAIC.” SAIC wisely declined the job application.
Yu then secured a job with SAIC’s Beijing competitor BAIC. There were no allegations that any secrets were in play to get the BAIC job.
On October 14th 2009, Mike Yu flew back to the States, apparently to punch his green card. He didn’t get further than Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.
- Mistake You need to come back before having spent a year abroad, at least. Anything later will raise suspicions, and may result in loss of your coveted Green Card. This would have been the least of Yu’s problems.
- Mistake Thou shall not have stolen data on you on re-entry. The DHS can impound anything that contains data and may inspect it at their leisure without giving cause. They sure did.
- Mistake If you have stolen thousands of documents, make inquiries whether anybody is looking for you before going back to the U.S. Yu missed that important step.
First, Yu’s luggage, passport and laptop were seized. “His company laptop computer contained Ford design documents that the FBI learned had been accessed while Yu worked for Beijing Automotive,” writes Reuters. Then, Yu went straight to prison, and any bail was denied. If he would have stayed in Beijing, he’d be home by now.
Pete Zaitcev on Nov 18, 2010
Chinese and Koreans steal everything. It's just the culture they're embedded into since birth. Russians used to be like that too (remember the joke about sewing machines). What's funny though, Chery is going to try and sell their stolen RAV4 in Europe. I'm curious what Toyota is going to do about it.
George B on Nov 18, 2010
I achieved victory against theft of electronic circuit design by the Koreans. The successful strategy is to let them steal flawed designs that can never work. Through the prototype and small volume production leave some wrong component values in the documentation and designs that go to outside contract manufacturers and swap components by hand in the lab. That way the stolen copy will be inferior than the original. I also helped create a fake RF amplifier design that was almost guaranteed to make smoke and flames when first powered up. They probably wasted more time copying the bad design than if they had started from scratch.
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