By Catherine Elsworth in Los Angeles
Two Silicon Valley computing engineers have been charged with economic
espionage for allegedly conspiring to steal sensitive microchip designs
they hoped to use to go into business with the Chinese military.
Lan Lee, an American, and Yuefei Ge, who is Chinese, are accused of
stealing trade secrets from their employer, NetLogics Microsystems, and
a second company, the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation.
The two men allegedly set up a business, SICO Microsystems, for the
purpose of developing and marketing products using the stolen designs.
They then attempted to secure funding from China's General Armaments
Department and a Chinese government programme created to develop
communications and laser technologies for the military, according to a
statement from prosecutors.
The stolen data related to the design and development of microchips and
processors that could be used in military technology. The men had been
about to stand trial on just the theft of the computer chip designs when
they were charged with the more serious crime of economic espionage on
The new indictment accuses Lee, 42, of Palo Alto, and Ge, 34, of San
Jose, of orchestrating the computer-chip plot so they could go into
business with the Chinese military.
The men, who have been released on bail of 300,000 dollars each, are
both charged with two counts of economic espionage, two counts of theft
of trade secrets and one count of conspiracy. They face up to 15 years
in jail and a 500,000 dollar fine if convicted.
In July, Robert Mueller, the FBI director, told Congress that China's
espionage operations in the US were a "substantial concern" and Beijing
was stealing American secrets to fuel its rapidly-developing military
Only three people have been convicted in the US of economic espionage,
described as the theft of trade secrets to benefit a foreign government
and the most serious crime under the Economic Espionage Act of 1996. All
the convictions resulted from activity in Silicon Valley.
"The vigorous enforcement of intellectual property statutes increases
the economic vitality of this region, and adds to the security of our
nation as a whole," said Scott Schools, the area's chief federal
"This office is committed to the prosecution of individuals who seek to
benefit foreign governments or instrumentalities with stolen trade
CSI 2007 is the only conference that delivers a business-focused
overview of enterprise security. It will convene 1,500+ delegates,
80 exhibitors and features 100+ sessions/seminars providing a
roadmap for integrating policies and procedures with new tools
and techniques. Register now for savings on conference fees
and/or free exhibits admission. - www.csiannual.com