A federal jury indicted a former GM employee and her husband for conspiracy, fraud, and other charges in an alleged scheme to steal information about GM hybrid vehicles.
Shanshan Du, a former GM engineer, was accused of copying thousands of GM documents in January 2005, five days after receiving a severance offer from The General. According to the government, the conspiracy began in 2003 when Du’s husband Yu Qin (49) made a deal to provide Chery automotive – a GM competitor in China – with hybrid technology.
The Dumpster Incident
Du and Qin set up their own company – Millennium Technology International – with the alleged goal to sell GM’s hybrid tech to Chery. The couple was charged in May 2006 with destroying documents in an effort to stifle an ongoing investigation of them. They were accused of shredding and dumping documents in a trash bin behind a store after a grand jury sought information about their activities.
According to a court filing, FBI agents followed the couple to a grocery store where Qin approached a dumpster from which Federal agents later retrieved the shredded documents. The criminal complaint was dropped less than two months later – which is allegedly a common practice when investigators are looking to develop a case.
After learning of the alleged theft, GM called the FBI. Our favorite automaker estimates the value of the stolen information at $40 million.
“Theft of trade secrets is a threat to national security,” Andrew Arena, head of the FBI in Detroit, said in a statement.
Du, 51, was hired at GM in 2000 and – according to the indictment – purposely sought a transfer in 2003 to get access to hybrid technology. She began copying documents by the end of that year.
The couple appeared in court Thursday. Qin’s lawyer – Frank Eaman – said he was completely surprised by the indictment.
“This investigation has been going on so long I figured if they had a basis they would have charged them a long time ago,” Eaman said.
Du’s attorney, Robert Morgan, declined to comment.
The couple, which was arrested Thursday, remained silent during their court appearance and entered not guilty pleas. The indictment includes an obstruction of justice charge against Qin for the dumpster incident. If convicted, the couple is looking at a maximum of 20 years in prison.
Du and Qin, both U.S. citizens, were released on bond and ordered to stay in the Detroit area.
And just in case you were wondering whether Cherry automotive had anything to say about the matter, Jin Yibo, a Chery spokesman in China, said that the company saw a news report about the incident but knew nothing else about it.
Stay tuned to GM Authority as we learn more.[Source: Freep and CBS News | Image Courtesy of Babble.com]