DETROIT -- U.S. authorities say they are increasingly on the lookout for the theft of trade secrets as the auto industry becomes more global.
"Theft of trade secrets and cyber- crime is one of the top priorities of the FBI," Special Agent Daniel D. Roberts said in a statement after the Wednesday, July 5, indictment of three former Metaldyne Corp. employees.
The three are accused of selling company secrets to a Chinese competitor.
"In this case of global outsourcing and the highly competitive nature of the worldwide business environment, protecting trade secrets is absolutely critical and at the core of the survival of U.S. companies," Roberts said.
Anne Lockwood, 53; her husband, Michael Haehnel, 51; and Fuping Liu, 42, were charged with several counts of conspiracy, wire fraud, theft of trade secrets and computer fraud.
The three were arraigned in U.S. District Court in Detroit. After pleading innocent, they surrendered their passports and were released on bond.
Lockwood was vice president of sales for Metaldyne until February 2004. Haehnel was a senior engineer until February 2005. Liu worked as a metallurgist until April 2004 and then left for a job at GKN Sinter Metals. Liu worked at GKN's Shanghai office until February 2005.
"Regardless of the highly competitive rough-and-tumble of today's global automotive industry, stealing is still stealing," Stephen J. Murphy, the U.S. attorney in Detroit, said in a statement.
"Today's indictment alleges a case of former and current employees stealing secret and crucial information from a victim company and handing it over to a competitor overseas. The federal laws protecting trade secrets prohibit such conduct, and whenever it occurs, it warrants an aggressive law enforcement response."