A former Apple engineer admitted to stealing automotive trade secrets
Xiaolang Zhang is a former Apple brand employee who worked on a self-driving car project between December 2015 and May 2018. He was accused of stealing computer files that contain trade secrets about Apple’s secret automobile division. ‘Apple. He pleaded guilty Monday in federal court in San Jose.
According to CNBC, Zhang faces up to 10 years in prison under US law as well as a fine of $250,000 (about €250,896). The judgment, meanwhile, is scheduled for November. As a reminder, Xiaolang Zhang was arrested by federal agents in July 2018 at the airport in San Jose, where he had planned to fly to China, but he only confessed his wrongdoing now.
After returning from paternity leave at the end of April 2018, he informed his supervisor that he was quitting to spend time with his ailing mother in China. He also said he plans to work for Guangzhou Xiaopeng Motors Technology, a Chinese startup named electric vehicles.
Feeling that Zhang had been evasive throughout the meeting, a member of Apple’s New Product Security Division asked him to turn in his two business phones as well as his laptop for examination. This is where they discovered, according to The Verge, an exponential increase in Zhang’s networking activity over the previous two years of his employment in the days leading up to his quit attempt. They also discovered CCTV footage that showed Zhang leaving the self-driving vehicle lab during a time he was supposed to be on leave.
Zhang is not the only one accused of theft
Xiaolang Zhang isn’t the only one facing charges of stealing trade secrets from Apple’s electric car division. A former employee of the company named Jizhong Chen was also charged on the same charge in early 2019. He is accused of attempting to smuggle manuals, schematics, diagrams and photographs of the auto project of Apple in the Chinese country.
Chen is an American citizen and just like Zhang, he was also planning to visit China. So far, he has not pleaded guilty. His trial date has not yet been set but his case is ongoing. He is represented by the same attorney as Zhang.