Ex-IBM employee from China gets five years prison for stealing code

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A former software engineer for IBM in China was sentenced to five years in prison after he pleaded guilty to stealing proprietary source code from the company, prosecutors announced on Friday.

Jiaqiang Xu, 32, was sentenced on Thursday by U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas in White Plains, New York, according to a statement from the office of U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman. Xu pleaded guilty in May 2017 to economic espionage and theft of a trade secret.

Leanne Marek, Xu’s attorney, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Xu worked as a systems software developer for International Business Machines Corp from 2010 to 2014, according to a public LinkedIn profile. The company was not identified by name in court documents, and did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Xu was arrested in December 2015 after meeting with an undercover officer at a White Plains hotel, where authorities said he was recorded saying he used proprietary IBM code to make software to sell to customers, according to prosecutors.

He was originally charged with theft of a trade secret. The economic espionage charges were added in a superseding indictment filed last June.

Prosecutors said the proprietary computer code Xu stole was related to a so-called clustered file system, which facilitates faster computer performance.

Xu, who began working at IBM in China in 2010, had full access to the source code before voluntarily resigning in May 2014, prosecutors said.

According to the criminal complaint filed in 2015, the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2014 received a report that someone in China was claiming to have access to the code and using it for business ventures, prompting the investigation that led to the arrest.

Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Matthew Lewis