DETROIT, July 22 A suburban Detroit couple have been charged with conspiring to steal trade secrets related to hybrid vehicles from General Motors [GM.UL] to pass on to China's Chery Automobile Company.
Yu Qin, 49, and his wife Shanshan Du, 51, of Troy, Michigan, were charged in a seven-count indictment that was unsealed on Thursday in U.S. District Court in Detroit.
The couple appeared in court on Thursday and were released, according to a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office.
They were required to surrender their U.S. passports and cannot leave the Detroit area without court permission.
Qin and Du, who worked as a GM engineer, are accused of taking confidential GM information on hybrid technology and trying to pass it on to Chinese automakers through a small firm they owned called Millenium Technology International.
Du is accused of copying thousands of GM documents to an external hard drive five days after the automaker offered her a severance agreement in January 2005.
She left GM's advanced technology group in March 2005. In August, Qin and Du proposed a joint venture on hybrids to China's Chery in a series of emails, according to the indictment.
Then in November 2005 Qin applied for jobs as a hybrid engineer, claiming on his resume that he had invented some of the stolen GM technology, prosecutors say.
The counts charging conspiracy to possess trade secrets and unauthorized possession of trade secrets carry a penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.
The wire fraud counts, and an obstruction charge, carry a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. (Reporting by Kevin Krolicki and David Bailey; Editing by Gary Hill)