TULSA, Okla. (CN) – A Chinese national was sentenced to two years in federal prison Thursday after admitting to stealing $1 billion worth of battery technology trade secrets while working for Phillips 66.
U.S. District Judge Gregory Frizzell also sentenced Honjin Tan, 36, to three years of supervised release and ordered $150,000 in restitution. A legal permanent resident in Oklahoma, Tan was arrested Dec. 19 and charged with theft of trade secrets, copying of trade secrets and possession of trade secrets.
He later admitted to authorities that he copied and downloaded the trade secrets without authorization.
“Tan used a thumb drive to copy hundreds of files containing the proprietary information on Dec. 11, 2018,” prosecutors said after sentencing. “He subsequently turned in his resignation and was escorted from the premises on Dec. 12, 2018. Later that day, he returned the thumb drive, claiming that he had forgotten to do so before leaving his employer’s property. Upon examination, it was discovered that there was unallocated space on the thumb drive, indicating five documents had previously been deleted.”
FBI investigators later searched Tan’s home and found an external hard drive with the five missing files from the thumb drive downloaded, prosecutors said.
Trent Shores, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma, said “unscrupulous individuals like Hongjin Tan seek to steal American trade secrets to take home to China so they can replicate our technology.”
Prosecutors say the stolen information was intended to benefit Tan’s new unidentified employer in Xiamen, China. They claim that during a dinner with a former co-worker on Dec. 13, Tan said he interviewed with the Chinese company that had been in constant contact with him since he was in graduate school at The California Institute of Technology.
Tan later traveled to Beijing from Dallas Fort Worth International Airport and stayed there for two weeks in September, according to an eight-page affidavit in support of the criminal complaint.