Chinese Scientist has been Jailed for Stealing $1bn of Trade Secrets in the US

A Chinese scientist who is convicted of stealing trade secrets worth $1bn from an Oklahoma Petroleum Company has allegedly been jailed in the United States. Hongjin Tan, who was employed by some unnamed company in June 2017 to work in a group which aimed to develop next-generation battery technologies for stationary energy storage was convicted for stealing trade secrets worth $1bn.

The-36-year-old Chinese national and US legal permanent resident was caught by a vigilant worker for stealing hundreds of files that contained proprietary information related to flow batteries.

After being held for the theft, Tan admitted that he intentionally copied and downloaded the research and development materials onto a thumb drive without having authorization from his employer.

In December 2018, Tan turned in the thumb drive along with his resignation; however, when investigators examined the storage device, they found out that five documents that were there in the drive had since been deleted.

The missing files however, were later located on an external hard drive which was recovered during a search of Tan’s premises. It simply transpires that Tan had swiped the files and saved them away at home, where he could access them easily and sell later.

Tan beseeched guilty to theft of a trade secret, unauthorized transmission of a trade secret, and unauthorized possession of a trade secret on November 12, 2019.

In a statement, Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers said, “Tan’s guilty plea continues to fill in the picture of China’s theft of American intellectual property. The Department launched its China Initiative to battle precisely the type of behavior reflected in today’s plea—illegal behavior that costs Americans their jobs—and we will continue to do so.” 

Yesterday, Hongjin Tan has been sentenced to 24 months in federal prison by US District Judge Gregory K. Frizzell. Besides, he has also been ordered to pay $150,000 in restitution to his former employer. After completing his 24 months prison sentence, Tan will be spending a further three years on supervised release.

Ruskin Brodkin

Ruskin Brodkin writes for She is a graduate in journalism from the University of Maryland. Ruskin currently lives in Brooklyn, and she previously worked as a Television Producer on BBA International's Squawk Box Europe. Ruskin has also been a movies reporter for Radio New Zealand.

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