(CN) - A Chinese national admitted this week to playing a role in stealing proprietary corn seeds from American companies DuPont Pioneer and Monsanto.
Mo Hailong aka Robert Mo, 46, pleaded guilty Wednesday in Southern Iowa Federal Court to conspiracy to steal trade secrets, a felony charge.
A 17-page plea agreement says he participated in the theft of inbred, or parent, corn seeds that are the intellectual property of DuPont Pioneer and Monsanto. Prosecutors say Hailong planned to transport the seeds to China.
Hailong, a Chinese national who became a legal U.S. resident through an H-1B visa, worked as director of international business for Dabeinong Technology Group Co., the government said. The Chinese conglomerate has a corn seed subsidiary company called Kings Nower Seed.
From about 2007 to 2012, Hailong and at least one other person agreed to work together to steal "samples of various types of corn seeds" from DuPont Pioneer and Monsanto's fields in Iowa, according to the plea agreement.
"For example, during the harvest season in 2011, members of the conspiracy, including [Hailong], took, or assisted in the taking of, whole earns of corn and inbred corn seeds belonging to Pioneer and Monsanto from fields, including fields in the Southern District of Iowa, and transported, or attempted to transport, those inbred seeds to China," the plea agreement states.
The government says its investigation began when DuPont Pioneer security staff found suspicious activity and alerted the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Hailong's sentencing date has not yet been determined, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. As part of his plea agreement, the government agreed not to seek a prison term of more than five years.
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