American pair destroyed, discarded key GM evidence, FBI testifies in criminal trial
DETROIT –- An American couple accused of stealing General Motors’ trade secrets used a large trash container at a Metro Detroit grocery store to discard the evidence, FBI special agents testified Tuesday at a criminal trial in Detroit.
The FBI agents said they used ground and air surveillance to watch Yu Qin and Shanshan Du as the pair drove to a Farmer Jack grocery store on May 23, 2006, where Qin unloaded two plastic bags “containing shredded documents responsive to federal grand jury subpoena.”
FBI agents had searched the couple’s home in Troy, Mich., near Detroit, earlier that day.
Qin and Du face charges of stealing GM hybrid car technology to start a joint venture in China involving their company and Chery Automobile Co., a Chinese auto manufacturer and GM competitor.
The trial opened Monday.
Agent Jonathan Adkins, a surveillance pilot at the time of the incident, said he monitored the defendants from the sky and communicated with a ground team stationed in the store’s parking lot.
He said the minivan circled the lot twice after discarding the bags. Adkins, who flew more than 2,000 hours during his stint as a surveillance pilot, said seeing people dump items wasn’t something he routinely saw.
Agent Roberta Bero, who was on the ground team, took photos of the trash receptacle area and retrieved the bags, she said.
Qin and Du were indicted in July 2010 and pleaded not guilty to three counts each of trade theft and wire fraud. Qin was also charged with obstruction of justice.
Qin was vice president of r&d for Controlled Power Co., which designs and builds electrical power equipment. He was fired in 2005 after the company discovered he had his own firm.
Du worked at Controlled Power from 1988 to 2000 before joining GM, said Chris Tazzia, CPC president.
Du, who had access to confidential company documents, allegedly gave secret information about hybrid vehicles to her husband to help a foreign competitor and Millennium Technology International Inc., the company they started in 2000.
Millenium started out by producing electronic products similar to what CPC produced, but it ventured out to hybrid vehicle technology.
The indictment alleges the defendants knew the information was obtained without authorization.
Du was hired in 2000 as an engineer for GM’s Advanced Technology Vehicles group.
In July 2001, she signed an agreement with GM to “protect” proprietary information “created or obtained” during her employment. She also agreed to return all GM documents to the company if she left its employ, according to the indictment.
Instead of protecting the information, Prosecutor Michael Martin accused Du of stealing it in what he called a “particularly heinous” type of theft.
GM said the 16,262 documents the woman copied to an external hard drive in 2005 before leaving the company were worth more than $40 million.