Criminal Charges Against Former Apple Engineer Plans to Allegedly Smuggle Trade Secrets to China

Federal prosecutors have charged a former Apple employee on Monday for allegedly stealing Apple’s self-driving car trade secrets and attempting to take them with him to a new job at a Chinese startup.

Xiaolang Zhang had worked on Apple’s self-driving car project since 2015. The charges filed in U.S. federal court alleged Zhang unveiled intentions to work for a Chinese electric car startup and booked a last-minute flight to China after downloading the plan for a circuit board for a self-driving car.

According to the Washington Post, Apple’s security officials asked Zhang to turn in his work issued iPhones and MacBook after he resigned. Apple then launched an investigation on his online activities and realized he had downloaded a large amount of data in the days leading up to his resignation. Suspicious, Apple officials then examined security camera footage seeing him leave his lab with a large box containing circuit boards and a Linux server, keyboard, and some cables.

The complaint gave up some official details of the self-driving car program for the first time. Around 5,000 employees were certified to access information about the program, including 2,700 “core” employees with access to secret databases.

If convicted, Zhang will face a sentence of 10 years in jail and USD 250,000 in fines.

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