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Ex-GM engineer, husband guilty of trade-secret theft

A couple have been found guilty of stealing General Motors trade secrets related to hybrid vehicles to pass on to China’s Chery Automobile Co.

Jeff Kowalsky/Reuters

A former General Motors Co. engineer and her husband were found guilty on Friday of conspiring to steal the auto maker's trade secrets.

Shanshan Du, 53, the former GM employee, was ruled guilty of conspiracy to possess trade secrets without authorization and two counts of unauthorized possession of trade secrets. She was found not guilty of three counts of wire fraud.

Ms. Du's husband, Yu Qin, 51, was found guilty on all six counts, as well as a seventh count for obstruction of justice.

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The trade secret counts carry a penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment and a $250,000 (U.S.) fine. The wire fraud counts and an obstruction charge each carry a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing will occur in February 2013.

The jury of nine women and three men deliberated for less than a full day after the case was sent to them late on Thursday. The trial in U.S. District Court in Detroit began on Nov. 5.

Ms. Du and Mr. Qin were charged in 2010 in a seven-count indictment with trying to steal GM trade secrets related to hybrid vehicles to pass on to China's Chery Automobile Co.

Attorneys for both Ms. Du and Mr. Qin argued the documents in question were not trade secrets.

Mr. Qin and Ms. Du, who worked as a GM engineer, were accused of taking confidential GM information on hybrid technology and trying to pass it to Chinese auto makers through a small firm they owned called Millennium Technology International, according to court documents.

Ms. Du was accused of copying thousands of GM documents to an external hard drive five days after the auto maker offered her a severance agreement in January 2005.

She left GM's advanced technology group in March 2005. In August of that year, Mr. Qin and Ms. Du proposed a joint venture on hybrids to China's Chery in a series of e-mails, according to court documents.

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Then in November 2005, Mr. Qin, who had been working as an electrical engineer in Troy, applied for jobs as a hybrid engineer, claiming on his résumé he had invented some of the stolen GM technology, according to court documents.

The couple were required to surrender their U.S. passports and cannot leave the Detroit area without court permission.

GM declined to comment on the verdict.

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