A Chinese-born engineer was convicted Thursday of stealing trade secrets critical to the U.S. space program in the nation’s first economic espionage trial.
A federal judge found former Boeing Co. engineer Dongfan “Greg” Chung guilty of six counts of economic espionage and other charges for hoarding 300,000 pages of sensitive documents in his home, including information about the U.S. space shuttle and a booster rocket.
“The trust Boeing placed in Mr. Chung to safeguard its proprietary and trade secret information obviously meant very little to Mr. Chung,” U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney wrote in his 31-page ruling. “He cast it aside to serve the PRC (People’s Republic of China), which he proudly proclaimed as his ‘motherland.'”
Federal prosecutors accused the 73-year-old stress analyst of using his 30-year career at Boeing and Rockwell International to steal the documents. They said investigators found papers stacked throughout Chung’s house that included sensitive information about a fueling system for a booster rocket–documents that Boeing employees were ordered to lock away at the close of work each day. They said Boeing invested $50 million in the technology over a five-year period.
After the ruling, defense attorney Thomas Bienert said he planned to appeal.
“A big feature (of this case) is not about what China wanted Mr. Chung to do, but about what Mr. Chung was willing to do,” Bienert said outside the courtroom. “There is no evidence that China used or benefited from anything in this case.”
Chung had been free on $250,000 bail before the verdict. His attorneys asked the judge to let him remain with his family in Orange until sentencing, but the government said a man facing such a long sentence with close ties to China could easily flee to the Chinese consulate and never return.