Two professors who reportedly met at USC while in an electrical engineering doctoral program are among six Chinese nationals charged with conspiring to steal radio frequency filter technology developed by U.S. companies, the Department of Justice announced Tuesday.
One of the half-dozen suspects, Hao Zhang, 36, was arrested Saturday at Los Angeles International Airport after arriving on a flight from China, according to the Justice Department.
The other five suspects are believed to be in China.
The 32-count indictment, unsealed today in San Francisco, charges the six with economic espionage and theft of trade secrets for their alleged roles in a long-running effort to obtain U.S. trade secrets for the benefit of universities and companies controlled by the Chinese government.
Federal prosecutors contend that Zhang and 35-year-old Wei Pang met while doctoral students at the University of Southern California a decade ago. Both are professors at the state-run Tianjin University, according to the DOJ.
While at USC, Pang and Zhang conducted research and development on thin- film bulk acoustic resonator technology — radio frequency filters commonly used in cell phones and other wireless applications — under funding from U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, prosecutors said.
After earning their doctorates, Pang was hired as a frequency filter engineer with Avago Technologies in Colorado and Zhang began working as an engineer with Skyworks Solutions Inc. in Massachusetts. The stolen trade secrets alleged in the indictment belong to Avago or Skyworks, according to the government.
“The conduct alleged in this superseding indictment reveals a methodical and relentless effort by foreign interests to obtain and exploit sensitive and valuable U.S. technology through the use of individuals operating within the United States,” said Special Agent in Charge David J. Johnson of the FBI’s San Francisco division.
“Complex foreign-government sponsored schemes, such as the activity identified here, inflict irreversible damage to the economy of the United States and undercut our national security,” he said. “The FBI is committed to rooting out industrial espionage that puts U.S. companies at a disadvantage in the global market.”
The indictment alleges that Pang, Zhang and other co-conspirators stole recipes, source code, specifications, presentations, design layouts and other documents marked as confidential and proprietary from the victim companies and shared the information with one another and with individuals working for Tianjin University.
The stolen trade secrets enabled Tianjin University to construct and equip a state-of-the-art radio frequency filter facility and to obtain contracts for providing the technology to commercial and military entities, the U.S. government alleges.
In addition to Zhang and Pang, the defendants are:
— Jinping Chen, 41, a professor at Tianjin University and a member of the board of directors for ROFS Microsystems. Chen is charged with conspiracy to commit economic espionage and conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets;
— Huisui Zhang, 34, who studied with Pang and Zhang at USC and received a master’s degree in electrical engineering in 2006. Huisui is charged with conspiracy to commit economic espionage and conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets;
— Chong Zhou, 26, is a Tianjin University graduate student and a design engineer at ROFS Microsystem. Zhou studied under Pang and Zhang, and is charged with conspiracy to commit economic espionage, conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets, economic espionage and theft of trade secrets; and
— Zhao Gang, 39, general manager of ROFS Microsystems. He is charged with conspiracy to commit economic espionage and conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets.
— City News Service
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