Chinese Trade Secret Thief Loses Appeal
CHICAGO (CN) - The 7th Circuit affirmed the conviction and four-year sentence of a software engineer who tried to flee to Beijing after stealing more than 2,000 confidential Motorola documents.
After eight years of working for Motorola, Hanjuan Jin, 41, took more than a year-long leave of absence for medical reasons from the Chicago-based telecommunications company in 2006.
During this time, she accepted a job in China with Sun Kaisens, a competitor that develops technology for the Chinese military.
While secretly working for Sun Kaisens, Jin returned to work at Motorola for one day in February 2007, gained access to Motorola's network, and downloaded more than 2,000 technical documents, saving some to her personal hard drive and printing others.
On Feb. 28, U.S. Customs stopped Jin while attempting to board a flight to Beijing from Chicago O'Hare International Airport because she was carrying more than $30,000 in cash. Upon further investigation, the agents found Motorola documents marked as "confidential and proprietary information" in her carry-on bags.
Jin was found guilty of stealing trade secrets, but not economic espionage, and sentenced to four years in prison.
On appeal, Jin challenged both her conviction and sentence, but the 7th Circuit affirmed both last week.
Although the secrets Jin stole, which were related to a telecommunications technology called iDEN, were rapidly losing their value, "the government doesn't have to prove that the owner of the secret actually lost money as a result of the theft," Judge Richard Posner said, writing for the three-judge panel.
"Suppose a company in New Orleans had stolen the iDEN technology and was about to sell its first subscription to its brand - new iDEN network when Hurricane Katrina destroyed the company. Would that mean that the company had stolen something that had no economic value?" Posner asked. "No; for what it stole had economic value though for extraneous reasons the value couldn't be monetized. The theft in the present case, as in our hypothetical case, might have injured Motorola by revealing that it couldn't keep secrets or prevent rivals from stealing its technology."
The court also said Jin was "fortunate to be the recipient of discretionary sentencing lenity," given her "egregious conduct, which included repeatedly lying to federal agents (for which she could have been prosecuted but was not)."
Although Jin pleaded not guilty, the district judge gave her a "surprising break," and reduced her offense by two levels, accepting her admission of responsibility.