Dumb And Dumber: How Not To Spy

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
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.

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11 of 24 comments
  • Pete Zaitcev 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.

    • See 8 previous
    • Psmisc Psmisc on Nov 20, 2010

      @Bertel, Thanks, that clarifies it a lot.

  • George B 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.

  • Tassos I knew a woman in the area, a journalist (at least she claimed to be a reporter of some kind) who owned one of these tiny pickups with a manual transmission. SHe was only 40 at the time, but she must have been hard of hearing, because she would routinely forget to shift and we would go at fairly high speeds in very low gear, which made a huge racket, which did not seem to bother her (hence my deafness hypothesis). Either that, or she was a lousy driver. Oh well, another very forgettable, silly car from the 80s (and if my first and LAST VW, a 1975 Dasher wagon, was any indication, a very unreliable one too!)
  • Tassos Now as for the Z specifically, Car and Driver had a comparison test of the new Z400, a car that looks good on paper, with plenty of HP etc, but, despite the fact that the cars that win in those tests are usually brand new models that are more up to date than their aging rivals, the Z finished DEAD LAST in the test, to my ovbious surprise.
  • Arthur Dailey Sorry but compare that spartan interior to the Marks that Corey is writing about. 'A cigarette lighter'. Every Mark had 4 cigarette lighters and ashtrays. And these came standard with 'a 3.4-liter, 182-horsepower straight-six in the engine compartment and a five-speed manual transmission'. Those do not tick off many of the luxury boxes aspired to by 'the greatest generation'.Not sure about the 7 series but one of My Old Man's associates showed up once with a brand new 5 series circa 1977 and they gave him such a bad time that he traded it for a Fleetwood within a week.
  • Tassos I clearly have no sentimental attachment to any cars from the 80s. I myself drove a Dasher (passat) wagon with horrible reliability, and then a Pontiac 2000, very fuel efficient for its time with its 1.8 lt and 5 speed, but a small econobox crudely made, with no luxuries inside. But most other cars of the era were really CRAPPY, unsafe, both in terms of passive AND active safety, had very few options modern cars have, etc etc. The best car I owned then was a 1991 Honda Civic 5-sp hatch, but that was also an 80s design that was on sale from 1987-1991. Not just the domestics were crappy then, but so were m ost of the imports. As you can see, I have ZERO "nostalgia" for any of these, especially not for the unreliable, poorly made JUNK from DATSUN-NISSAN, which is widely reviled overseas as a maker of small pickup trucks that are the favorites of Gypsies selling watermelons from their bed.
  • Tassos While Acura was the first Japanese attempt to sell 'luxury' (or "premium") vehicles in the US market, and despite its original good success in the near-luxury segment with the Legend and the far smaller and less expensive Itegra (a glorified Civic), it later lost its momentum and offered a series of underwhelming vehicles. It sure is not a LUXURY maker, and as long as it offers FWD or AWD and NOT RWD vehicles, it will never be taken seriously as a serious sports cars maker. Infiniti is much worse, and if both of them go under, few will notice. Lexus was more successful, offering pimped up TOyotas for 10,000s more, but there is NO vehicle in their lineup, esp now that they scewed up the only serious entry (the LS), that I would care to consider. AND I say all this as a very satisfied owner of 5-speed Honda coupes and hatchbacks (a 1991 Civic hatch and a 1990 Accord Coupe).