A Chinese national and former employee of Dow AgroSciences LLC pleaded guilty Tuesday to economic espionage and theft of trade secrets in federal court. Kexue Huang’s case is the first prosecution in Indiana for foreign economic espionage.
Huang was indicted in the Southern District of Indiana in July 2010 for misappropriating and transporting trade secrets to the People’s Republic of China while working as a research scientist for Dow. Although Huang had signed agreements that he would keep information confidential, he transferred and delivered stolen trade secrets to people in Germany and the PRC.
He left Dow and later joined Cargill as a biotechnologist. He signed a similar confidential agreement as he had at Dow. He admitted to stealing one of Cargill’s trade secrets. A separate indictment filed in the District of Minnesota charging him with stealing the Cargill trade secret was unsealed Tuesday.
This is the first trade secret prosecution in Indiana under a 1996 provision of the Economic Espionage Act that prohibits trade secret theft intended to benefit a component of a foreign government. Since it was enacted, there have been eight cases charged nationwide under the act.
According to the plea agreement, the aggregated loss from Huang’s criminal conduct was between $7 million and $20 million.
Huang faces up to 15 years in prison on the economic espionage charge and 10 years on the theft of trade secrets charge. A sentencing date has not been set.