A former senior scientist at chemical company DuPont has been charged with stealing trade secrets and trying to provide them to his new employer.
The U.S. Attorney for the District of Delaware announced on Feb 15 the unsealing of a one-count industrial espionage case against Yonggang (Gary) Min, formerly a senior scientist for DuPont, the Delaware-based chemical company.
According to the announcement, Min has been charged with stealing trade secrets from DuPont and trying to provide them to his new employer, Victrex, based in London. According to U.S. Attorney Colm F. Connolly, Min could face 10 years in prison and be fined up to $250,000.
According to the record that was unsealed today, Min agreed to plead guilty on November 13, 2006. "Due to the nature of the ongoing investigation, it was appropriate to maintain its status as a sealed matter until today," Connolly told eWEEK.
He said that the record of the guilty plea was unsealed today because it was no longer necessary to keep it sealed.
"He [Min] was charged with theft of trade secrets. As a part of that he admitted that he misappropriated more than 20,000 documents from the electronic database that DuPont has in Delaware. The value is set at 400 million dollars," Connolly said.
Connolly added that sentencing in the case is set for March 29, although he indicated that that date could change.
According to DuPont senior vice president and general counsel Stacey J. Mobley, the company became suspicious of Min in late 2005.
"Our internal investigation determined that Mr. Min, at the time a senior scientist who announced his intention to resign in order to accept a position with another company, had apparently misappropriated a significant volume of confidential and proprietary DuPont technical documents," Mobley said in a prepared statement.
Mobley said that the company immediately notified authorities at the FBI and the U.S. Department of Commerce, and added that DuPont assisted the federal investigators, and is planning to continue assisting in the investigation. Mobley also noted that DuPont had sued Min for the return of the documents he stole.
Mobley said that federal investigators moved quickly enough to keep Min from passing the purloined papers along to his new employer, although he was able to copy them to a Victrex-owned laptop computer.
According to statements in Mins guilty plea, he began discussing employment opportunities with Victrex in July 2005, and signed an employment agreement on Oct. 18. However, he said that he didnt tell DuPont he was leaving until December 12, 2005.
According to a statement from the U.S. Attorneys office, Min downloaded documents from a wide swath of DuPonts primary technologies and product lines.
Apparently, DuPont discovered that Min had unusually high usage on the company database after he told DuPont he was leaving. After notifying the FBI and the DoC about Mins activities, the company contacted Victrex, where Min had already started working. Victrex immediately seized Mins laptop on Feb. 8, 2006 and handed it over to the FBI.
Man found guilty of targeting AOL customers in phishing scam. Click here to read more.
The statement goes on to say that once the federal investigators got the computer, they then searched Mins home and found several computers with confidential DuPont documents. Min, in an apparent attempt to cover his tracks, had started erasing the information from the computers, but the FBI caught him in the act and recovered it.
After that, agents found shredded DuPont documents in garbage bags, and additional information in a storage unit and in an apartment.
FBI Special Agent in Charge of the Baltimore Field Office William D. Chase said that the bureau is committed to protecting trade secrets.
"This case is the result of excellent cooperation between FBI Baltimore, Wilmington Resident Agency, and the Department of Commerce Office of Export Enforcement," Chase said in the statement, also noting the cooperation of the U.S. Attorney in Wilmington, Del.
Chase said that the investigation was carried out in conjunction with the Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio, FBI offices. Min worked for DuPont in Ohio.
"The criminal and civil actions brought against Mr. Min underscore the actions that we are willing to take to preserve the integrity of our proprietary science and technology for the benefit of DuPont shareholders and customers," Mobley said.
Check out eWEEK.coms Security Center for the latest security news, reviews and analysis. And for insights on security coverage around the Web, take a look at eWEEKs Security Watch blog.
Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazine's Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.
He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.