(Reuters) – U.S. prosecutors on Thursday said a software engineer has been indicted on charges he stole trade secrets from the suburban Chicago locomotive manufacturer where he once worked and took them to China.
Xudong Yao, also known as William Yao, faces nine criminal counts in the indictment, which was unsealed this week in the federal court in Chicago.
Yao, 57, is still at large and believed to be in China, according to prosecutors. A lawyer for him could not immediately be identified.
Yao’s former employer was not identified.
The December 2017 indictment was unveiled at a time the United States is demanding that China make sweeping policy changes to better protect American intellectual property, including by curbing alleged thefts of trade secrets.
According to the indictment, within two weeks of being hired in August 2014, Yao downloaded more than 3,000 files containing proprietary and trade secret information related to the operating system for his former employer’s locomotives.
The indictment said this included nine complete copies of the company’s control system source code, and specifications explaining how the code worked.
Prosecutors said Yao soon began looking for a job in China, and kept downloading more trade secrets until February 2015, when he was fired for reasons unrelated to the theft, which had yet to be discovered.
According to the indictment, Yao began working in China for a provider of automotive telematics service systems in July 2015, traveled to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport four months later with the stolen materials and later returned to China.
Trade secret theft carries a maximum 10-year prison term.
The case is U.S. v Yao, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, No. 17-cr-00795.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York, editing by G Crosse)