* Stole trade secrets from Dow Chemical, Cargill
* Sent information to China-backed university, Germany
By Jeremy Pelofsky
WASHINGTON, Oct 18 A Chinese-born scientist
pleaded guilty on Tuesday to stealing valuable trade secrets
about pesticides and food products from two major U.S.
companies and sending the information to China and Germany.
Kexue Huang, 46, worked at a Dow Chemical Co
subsidiary from 2003 to 2008 in Indiana where he led a team of
scientists developing organic insecticides and then later for
another agribusiness giant, privately held Cargill Inc.
He pleaded guilty in a federal court in Indiana to one
count of stealing trade secrets from Cargill and one count of
engaging in economic espionage at Dow, only the eighth case
charged involving the U.S. Economic Espionage Act of 1996.
The plea is the latest in a series of cases involving the
theft of valuable trade secrets from U.S. corporations that
have been either taken or sent to China, where companies are in
hot competition with U.S. firms.
Such thefts -- an increasing issue for U.S. companies --
often help foreign companies short-cut spending millions of
dollars and potentially years of research and development.
Economic ties between the two countries have been tense
lately, particularly over trade practices.
Earlier this year, a Chinese engineer was sentenced to
almost six years for stealing trade secrets from Ford Motor Co worth millions of dollars and trying to use them to get a
job with Chinese automotive companies.
A Detroit couple was charged last year with conspiring to
steal trade secrets about General Motors Co's hybrid
vehicles worth more than $40 million to pass on to China's
Chery Automobile Co. The couple has pleaded not guilty.
Huang admitted that, despite signing a confidentiality
agreement, he passed numerous secrets about Dow's products to
others doing research in Germany and China, according to his
plea agreement filed in federal court in Indiana.
DOW CAN IDENTIFY STOLEN SECRETS
He also received grant money from the Chinese government to
further his own research at a government-backed university,
Hunan Normal University, as well as published articles about
his work based on information from Dow, the agreement said.
He admitted he was trying to develop and produce the
pesticides in China to compete against his former employer Dow,
including identifying manufacturing facilities, according to
the plea agreement filed in federal court.
The Dow unit, Dow AgroSciences, said it can identify
products that have the proprietary technology stolen by Huang
and that the company was taking steps to monitor international
markets to try to ensure counterfeit products never make it.
"Should any such product ever be found, we are prepared to
exhaust all legal means at our disposal to ensure that our
intellectual property rights are protected," the firm said in a
After leaving Dow to work for Cargill, Huang also admitted
he stole details about a key enzyme used to make a new food
product at that company, prosecutors said.
He sent that sensitive information to a student at the
Chinese government-backed university, they said. A Cargill
representative was not immediately available for comment.
"Today's plea underscores the continuing threat posed by
the theft of business secrets for the benefit of China and
other nations," said Lisa Monaco, Assistant Attorney General
for the Justice Department's National Security Division.
Huang was born in China and had legal permanent resident
status in the United States. He faces up to 15 years in prison
for the economic espionage charge and 10 years for theft of
trade secrets. He could also be deported.
Prosecutors estimated the total losses from Huang's conduct
ranged between $7 million and $20 million, according to
The case is USA v. Kexue Huang, No. 11-cr-163, in U.S.
District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.