Chinese national Mike Yu faces up to six years imprisonment after pleading guilty on Tuesday to stealing 4000 design documents from car manufacturer, Ford.
On the eve his departure from the Ford company in 2007, Yu was found to have transferred the documents to an external hard-drive, which he later shared with subsequent Chinese employers.
Ford had been working on the copied engineering design specifications for decades. The documents were valued at between US$50 million and US$100 million, according to the FBI.
Yu was arrested in 2009 on his return to the US while working for the Beijing Automotive Company. The FBI found 41 Ford system designs on Yu’s laptop, which had been accessed while he was employed by the Chinese car maker.
Yu now faces between five and six years imprisonment, a fine of US$150,000 and deportation following the completion of his sentence.
Andrew Arena, the FBI’s head of its Detroit division, said the agency treated intellectual property theft as a national security issue.
“Theft of trade secrets is a threat to national security and investigating allegations involving theft of trade secrets is a priority for the FBI. The FBI will continue to aggressively pursue these cases,” he said in a statement.
Yu was expected to be sentenced in February 2011.