GE Healthcare (GEHC) recently charged a former engineer in federal court with criminal theft of trade secrets for allegedly copying millions of proprietary files and sending them to relatives in China.
Jun Xie, 41, is alleged to have stolen 1.4 gigabytes or 2.4 million files of information, including engineering designs, product testing information, and business strategy. Xie admitted to the FBI that he then sent the files in separate storage devices to his wife and brother in China, according to a report from the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel.
Xie, a Chinese citizen, in 2008 joined and started to work for a subsidiary of GE Healthcare in Waukesha, Wisconsin, writing code for the company’s magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) systems, according to the complaint. GE discovered the alleged theft between March and June 2014. During questioning by the FBI, Xie said that he planned to follow his wife to China, who moved there in early 2013, and work for an unnamed Chinese imaging company starting July 2014.
In the complaint, Xie claimed that he “was unaware of the specific content of what he was downloading” from GE’s computer network, but admitted that he sent the files on four separate removable electronic storage devices to China. He “acknowledged that he could use the GEHC owned information in a future magnetic resonance imaging job,” but claimed that he never provided the documents to the Chinese company when he was interviewing for his new job.
Through an injunction tied to a civil suit filed by GE in July, Xie agreed to return all data that he stole and cooperate with authorities. In the civil suit, GE had charged Xie for “conversion, breach of contract, state and federal computer fraud, and violations of the trade secrets act,” according to the Journal Sentinel. However, GE this week took the case to a federal court and filed criminal charges against him.
GE issued a statement in the paper saying, “GE considers theft of its intellectual property a very serious matter and will take all steps necessary to pursue those who engage in such acts. We will cooperate fully with the government in its criminal investigation but, as a company policy, GE does not comment on ongoing litigation.”
According to WTAQ.com, the case is the second one in the Milwaukee area involving trade secrets being stolen and sent to China. It noted a similar incident last year when a researcher working at the Medical College of Wisconsin was charged with economic sabotage, and later pleaded guilty to a lesser charge.