Ex-Ford engineer sentenced for trade secrets theft

The logo of Ford car manufacturer is seen on a Focus car at the Ford car plant in Saarlouis, August 26, 2010. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

DETROIT (Reuters) - A Chinese engineer who stole Ford Motor Co trade secrets was sentenced to almost six years in prison, said the U.S. Attorney’s office in Detroit.

Xiang Dong Yu, also known as Mike Yu, of Beijing, was sentenced to 70 months in federal prison and ordered to pay a fine of $12,500 after pleading guilty to two counts of theft of trade secrets, the U.S. Attorney’s office said in a statement on Tuesday.

Upon completion of his sentence, Yu, who had permanent resident status in the United States, will be deported.

Yu, 49, was arrested in October 2009 when he arrived at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport from China on charges that he stole thousands of secret documents detailing Ford designs worth millions of dollars.

Yu was a product engineer at Ford from 1997 through early 2007.

In December 2006, he accepted a job at the China branch of a U.S. company, the U.S. Attorney’s office said. On the eve of his departure from Ford and before he told the automaker of his new job, Yu copied some 4,000 Ford documents onto an external hard drive, including sensitive Ford design documents about engine-transmission and electric power supply systems, the U.S. Attorney’s office said.

Yu e-mailed Ford from China on January 2, 2007, to say he was leaving the company’s employment, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office. He eventually joined Chinese automaker Beijing Automotive Industry Corp.

The case is U.S. v. Yu, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, No. 09-cr-20304.

Reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by Derek Caney