On Friday, a trial in the U.S. District Court in Detroit, found Shanshan Du, 53, and her husband Yu Qin, 51, guilty of conspiring to possess trade secrets without authorization, and also guilty of two counts of unauthorized possession of trade secrets. Shanshan Du, the former GM employee was found not guilty in three counts of wire fraud, but her husband was found guilty on all six counts, and additionally a seventh count for obstructing justice.
The trial began on Nov. 5, while the case was sent to the jury of nine women and three men on Thursday. Du and Qin were charged in 2010 for trying to steal trade secrets related to hybrid vehicles from General Motors with the intent to pass them on to China’s Chery Automobile Co through a small firm named Millennium Technology International, which was owned by the couple.
Du worked as an engineer in General Motors. In January 2005, she was offered a severance agreement by GM, and within the following five days she copied thousands of company documents to an external hard drive. She left the advanced technology group of General Motors in March 2005. In August 2005, a series of email documents showed Qin and Du proposing a joint venture on hybrids to China’s Chery Automobile.
In November 2005, Qin, who was an electrical engineer in Troy, applied for jobs as a hybrid vehicle engineer, claiming to have invented some of the stolen GM technology on his resume.
Attorneys defending both Du and Qi maintained that the documents in question were not trade secrets. However, the couple were ordered to surrender their U.S. passports and ordered not to leave the Detroit area without court permission.
Sentencing in the case is scheduled in February 2013, and if the conviction is upheld then the trade secret counts can result in up to 10 years of imprisonment and $250,000 in fines. Wire fraud counts and obstruction charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years each along with a fine up to $250,000.
The case is In re: U.S. v. Qin, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, No. 10-cr-20454