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Former Apple employee charged in theft of self-driving car trade secrets

The Justice Department has charged a former Apple employee with stealing trade secrets related to Apple's autonomous car project on behalf of a Chinese company. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
The Justice Department has charged a former Apple employee with stealing trade secrets related to Apple's autonomous car project on behalf of a Chinese company. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

May 16 (UPI) -- The Justice Department has charged a former Apple employee with stealing autonomous car trade secrets on behalf of a Chinese company.

Weibo Wang worked for Apple as a software engineer between 2016 and 2018 and had "broad access" to company databases.

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According to an April filing from the Justice Department, Wang "knowingly stole, and without authorization appropriated, took, carried away, concealed and by fraud, artifice, and deception obtained trade secrets belonging to Apple."

The Justice Department said that "on or about April 3, 2018, Wang sent an email to his supervisor stating that he was resigning from Apple, and that his last day with the company would be April 16, 2018."

The Justice Department alleges that Wang concealed his future intentions to his employers as he left the company.

"Unbeknownst to Apple, on or around November 22, 2017, more than four months prior to his resignation email, Wang signed a letter accepting an offer of full-time employment as a staff engineer with the U.S.-based subsidiary of another company that was headquartered in the People's Republic of China and was working to develop self-driving cars," the Justice Department said.

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On June 27, 2018, law enforcement executed a search warrant for Wang's California residence. Though Wang assured investigators that he had no travel plans, he fled the country for China shortly afterward.

"Analysis of various devices seized from Wang's home revealed that he had stored large quantities of data taken from Apple prior to his departure," the Justice Department said.

Wang, who was charged in absentia, faces a total of six charges related to what the Justice Department characterizes as the theft of Apple's "entire autonomy source code."

Wang could face up to 10 years in prison for each charge, according to U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California, Ismail Ramsey.

In August, another former Apple employee, Xiaolang Zhang, pleaded guilty to stealing trade secrets related to Apple's autonomous car project.

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