Former Employee of Amherst Technology Firm Indicted for Stealing Trade Secrets
BUFFALO, N.Y.—U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr. announced today that a federal grand jury has filed a seven-count indictment charging Yi Liu, 40, of Lexington, South Carolina, with stealing trade secrets from Sprung-brett RDI, a technology firm located in the University of Buffalo’s Technology Incubator on Sweet Home Road in Amherst. Liu was also charged with unlawfully accessing a Sprung-brett computer, the interstate transportation of the stolen trade secrets and wire fraud for attempting to obtain pay from Sprung-brett to which he was not entitled.
The charges carry a maximum penalty of 60 years in prison, a $3,500,000 fine or both.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony M. Bruce, who is handling the case, stated that according to the indictment, Liu, who holds a Ph.D.in mechanical engineering from the University of Waterloo (Ontario), left Sprung-brett’s employ in February of 2011. For seven months following his departure, the defendant retained the laptop computer that Sprung-brett had provided to him while he was employed by the company. During this time, Liu allegedly downloaded electronic files onto an external hard drive that comprised Sprung-brett trade secrets about “electric actuation system technology,” technology that the company was developing for possible use in nuclear submarines and on Air Force fighters. The indictment further states that the defendant later disclosed those trade secrets.
“Protecting scientific and technological innovations developed by businesses and entrepreneurs is of primary importance not just to those who create the idea, but to our region and country,” said U.S. Attorney Hochul. “This Office will protect the intellectual property of our residents, and will vigorously prosecute those who attempt to steal it.”
At the time of Liu’s arrest, FBI agents searched his Lexington, South Carolina home and his office and workspace at the Apex Tool Group in Lexington. Agents seized computers and documents that are currently being analyzed.
The indictment is the result of an investigation by the Buffalo Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Brian P. Boetig and the Columbia, South Carolina Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge David Thomas.