A former General Electric Co. employee is charged with stealing trade secrets from the conglomerate to benefit two Chinese competitors — a scheme that was bankrolled by the Chinese government, according to an indictment unsealed Tuesday.
Xiaoqing Zheng, 56, of Niskayuna, New York, who was arrested in December, is charged with using sophisticated means to steal digital files detailing the company’s turbine technology.
The 14-count indictment also implicated Zhaoxi Zhang, a Chinese national and the nephew of Mr. Zheng’s wife, in the scheme. The pair face six counts of economic espionage and seven counts of trade secrets theft.
Mr. Zheng also faces one count of lying to the FBI during an interview. If convicted on all counts, he faces up to 163 years in federal prison and millions in fines.
Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers called the case a “textbook example” of China’s efforts to pilfer intellectual property from U.S. companies.
“We will not stand idly by while the world’s second-largest economy engages in state-sponsored theft,” Mr. Demers said in a statement.
The two defendants are partners in two businesses that research, develop and manufacture parts for turbines, according to the indictment.
While employed at GE Power & Water, Mr. Zheng stole multiple electronic files detailing parts and testing systems associated with the company’s gas and steam turbines, then emailed the stolen files to Mr. Zhang in China, federal prosecutors said.
The Chinese government provided financial and other support to further the scheme, federal prosecutors said.
Mr. Zheng was arraigned Tuesday in Albany while Mr. Zhang remains in China, out of the reach of U.S. authorities.
• Jeff Mordock can be reached at email@example.com.
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