(Reuters) - A former employee of chemicals firm Chemours Co has pleaded guilty to a U.S. charge that he conspired to steal trade secrets related to its lucrative sodium cyanide business and sell them to Chinese investors, federal prosecutors said on Tuesday.
Jerry Jindong Xu, who moved from China in 2011 and was employed by DuPont before the U.S. conglomerate spun off Chemours in 2015, entered his plea on Friday in federal court in Wilmington, Delaware, prosecutors said.
As part of a plea deal, prosecutors agreed to recommend a sentence of no more than one year in prison for Xu, who has remained in custody since his arrest in August and would receive credit for the time he has already served.
Xu pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to steal trade secrets. Caroline Cinquanto, his lawyer, said she expected Xu, a Canadian citizen, would receive a sentence of time served when he is sentenced on June 27.
“He has taken responsibility for his actions and is looking forward to rejoining his wife and children in Canada,” she said.
Xu, 48, was arrested last year amid heightened concern by U.S. authorities about the theft by Chinese of U.S. companies’ trade secrets.
According to the indictment, Wilmington-based Chemours is the world’s largest producer of sodium cyanide, a chemical used to mine gold, silver and other precious metals.
Prosecutors said Xu had worked for DuPont since 2004 and was involved in marketing sodium cyanide-based products. He was terminated by Chemours in 2016, prosecutors said.
The indictment accused Xu of using his position with Chemours to obtain trade secrets and confidential information, including reports and spreadsheets regarding three different company projects related to cyanide plants and facilities.
Prosecutors said his main goal was to either help investors build a competing sodium cyanide plant or become an import competitor.
He told one potential investor that he wanted to do the project “for himself and not to slave away at this only to benefit someone else,” prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said he conducted the scheme with the help of an unidentified longtime former DuPont employee who had left in 2014. They said that during the scheme, he accessed Chemours documents and secretly took pictures of plant system diagrams.
The case is U.S. v. Xu, U.S. District Court, District of Delaware, No. 17-cr-00063.
Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien