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Ford secrets thief caught red handed with stolen blueprints

Was moving to China, now he faces 5 to 6 years in US jail

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A veteran auto-plant worker faces an extended spell behind bars after pleading guilty last week to stealing industrial secrets, including design blueprints, from car maker Ford and passing them on to a Chinese rival.

Xiang Dong ("Mike") Yu, 49, a product engineer at Ford for 10 years between 1997 and 2007, admitted copying design specs that cost millions to develop onto an external hard drive in December 2006, shortly after he accepted a job at the Chinese branch of a US company.

"On the eve of his departure from Ford and before he told Ford of his new job, Yu copied some 4,000 Ford documents onto an external hard drive, including sensitive Ford design documents," a US Department of Justice statement about the case explains. "Included in those documents were system design specifications for the engine/transmission mounting subsystem, electrical distribution system, electric power supply, electrical subsystem and generic body module, among others."

Yu, who started work at Beijing Automotive Company in 2008, was put on a watch list and arrested during a stopover at Chicago in October 2009. His Beijing Automotive-issued laptop was seized. Later forensic examination uncovered 41 stolen Ford specification documents on the hard drive.

The defendant, who admitted two charges of stealing trade secrets, faces between five to six years in prison and a $150,000 fine. He also faces deportation back to his native China following the end of his prison sentence.

Yu was remanded in custody pending a sentencing hearing due to take place on 23 February. ®

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