Feds Take Stealing Technology Trade Secrets Seriously: Motorola Employee Sentenced to Four Years in Prison for Stealing Motorola Trade Secrets for China

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A Chinese American Sun Kaisens employee, an ex employee of Motorola, has been sentenced to four years in federal prison for stealing trade secrets from Motorola, including their IDEN technology, and attempting to smuggle them to a Chinese technology company in China. Hanjuan Jin, a 41 year old female employee, was a software engineer with Motorola for nine years. During sentencing, U.S. District Judge, Ruben Castillo, found that Jin made a “purposeful raid to steal technology.” In addition to being charged with three counts of stealing trade secrets, Jin was also charged with three counts of economic espionage. Judge Castillo did not find her guilty on those three counts.

Judge Castillo did tell her that someone would “have to have their head in the sand,” to not realize how the materials that were stolen could benefit both the Chinese government and military. Among the stolen documents included descriptions of Motorola cellphones with a walkie-talkie feature, a feature that prosecutors said would benefit the Chinese military. Castillo went on to admonish, “In today’s world, the most valuable thing that anyone has is technology. … The most important thing this country can do is protect its trade secrets.”

In 2007, Jin was on her way to China with a one-way ticket, so presumably had no plans to come back to the US any time soon. Customs officials stopped her as she was getting ready to make the journey from O’Hare International Airport to China, when they found that Jin was carrying over 1,000 electronic and physical documents, four external hard drives, thumb devices, and $31,000. The documents were promptly seized and Jin was arrested.

Jin is reported to have been quietly working for Chinese company Sun Kaisens when the documents were seized. She appeared to be bringing them trade secrets relating to a technology known as Integrated Digital Enhanced Network (IDEN). The Department of Justice (DOJ) reports that Jin, a US naturalized citizen, was helping Sun Kaisens work on military projects while she was on sick leave from Motorola in 2006. The DOJ charged that Jin, “was willing to betray her naturalized country.”

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When Jin returned to Motorola full time after her sick leave on February 26, 2007, she began accessing Motorola’s internal network to obtain electronic documents, as well as she was also seen removing physical documents from the building. Her materials theft occurred during the night of the 26th, with Jin emailing Motorola the very next day to volunteer for a layoff. Said Judge Castillo to Jin, of the theft, “It is a raid in no uncertain terms. It is a raid to steal technology. … You conducted this raid in the dead of night when you knew that there was a lesser chance you’d get caught.”

Jin’s attorney maintains that Jin intended to use the stolen material to simply prepare herself for her new job and in no way intended to share the information with Sun Kaisens. Accordingly, he asked for a non-custodial sentence for Jin, with the government requesting a custodial sentence of between 70 to 96 months. Jin remains under house arrest until October 25, when she must turn herself into prison. She was also fined $20,000.

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