A Canadian scientist pleaded guilty to economic espionage and theft for sending U.S. trade secrets on a pesticide and a new food product to China and Germany, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.
Kexue Huang, 46, entered the pleas in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis. He faces a possible maximum prison sentence of 25 years.
Chinese-born Huang was indicted in June 2010 and charged under the Economic Espionage Act, which was passed in 1996 after the U.S. determined other countries were spying on private businesses. His was the eighth case nationwide under the 15-year-old law.
Huang from 2007 to 2010 delivered trade secrets on an organic pesticide he helped develop at Dow AgroSciences in Indiana to persons in Germany and China and used the stolen materials to conduct unauthorized research with the intent to help foreign universities linked to China, the Justice Department said in a news release.
After joining Minnetonka, Minn.-based Cargill Inc. in March 2008, Huang stole a key component to make a new food product and gave it to a student at Hunan Normal University in China, according to an indictment unsealed Tuesday.
The total loss from the charges Huang pleaded guilty to came to $17 million, but Justice Department spokesman Tim Horty said Huang was responsible for a total of $300 million in losses.
Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer said "Huang used his insider status at two of America's largest agricultural companies to steal valuable trade secrets for use in his native China."
"We cannot allow U.S. citizens or foreign nationals to hand sensitive business information over to competitors in other countries. ... These crimes present a danger to the U.S. economy and jeopardize our nation's leadership in innovation," Breuer said.