A Chinese engineer was accused of stealing secrets from a secret self-driving vehicle project by Apple, revealed a freshly closed criminal complaint.
Jizhong Chen was arrested in January, the day before he was booked for a flight to China, where he had applied for an autonomous car company, according to a criminal complaint lodged this week in a US court in California.
Theft of trade secrets against Chen carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $ 250,000.
Electrical engineer Chen was recruited by Apple last June to become part of a hardware design team working on a self-propelled car project by Apple, the FBI special agent Adelaide Hernandez said.
Chen was given "secret training" to avoid leaking information even for family members, and it was one of about 1200 "key" employees who had access to the building where the project was centered, according to the complaint.
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In December, Apple announced Chen's need to improve his performance. Next month, a colleague noticed Chen taking a self-taught car project and warning chiefs.
The internal investigation found that Chen had photographed a secret project and supported his Apple work computer on a personal computer, as well as over 2000 files, including schemes, manuals and diagrams, according to the complaint.
Chen told Apple that he had downloaded his work computer to a PC as an “insurance policy” for the job prospects if his performance plan for Apple ended his termination, but some photos dated June, Hernandez said in the application.
Chen was stopped from his work thanks to Apple's internal investigation, the results of which were shared with the FBI.
Last July, a former Apple engineer was instructed to steal secrets from self-employed automotive technology days before he stopped to go to Chinese launch.
Xiaolang Zhang was charged with stealing trade secrets from the Apple project, according to a copy of the criminal complaint posted online.
According to the application submitted by Hernandez, these two cases were not related. Apple said last week that it was an autonomous car team trimming, but it is still committed to using this technology.