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Press Release

Chinese National Charged with Committing Theft of Trade Secrets

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

Hongjin Tan, a 35 year old Chinese national and U.S. legal permanent resident, was arrested on Dec. 20 and charged with theft of trade secrets. Tan is alleged to have stolen the trade secrets from his employer, a U.S. petroleum company.

The announcement was made by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney Trent Shores for the Northern District of Oklahoma, and Special Agent in Charge Kathryn Peterson of the FBI Oklahoma City Field Office.

“Hongjin Tan allegedly stole trade secrets related to a product worth more than $1 billion from his U.S.-based petroleum company employer, to use for the benefit of a Chinese company where he was offered employment,” said Assistant Attorney General Demers. “The theft of intellectual property harms American companies and American workers. As our recent cases show, all too often these thefts involve the Chinese government or Chinese companies. The Department recently launched an initiative to protect our economy from such illegal practices emanating from China, and we continue to make this a top priority.”  

“The United States filed a criminal complaint against a Chinese national alleging the theft of intellectual property from a company with significant operations in Oklahoma,” said U.S. Attorney Shores. “The value of the trade secrets in this case is estimated to be more than $1 billion dollars. Theft of critical research, development, and other intellectual property harms the economic prosperity and security of the United States. My office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation will utilize all tools available to respond to these types of threats. We will protect Oklahomans and Oklahoma businesses by prosecuting those who violate the law.”

Tan made an initial appearance Thursday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jodi F. Jayne. A preliminary and detention hearing has been set for Dec. 26.

According to the criminal complaint, Tan allegedly stole trade secrets from a U.S.-based petroleum company regarding the manufacture of a “research and development downstream energy market product.” The company’s methods of developing the product are of great value, both economically and to competitors. Until recently, Tan worked for the petroleum company and allegedly downloaded hundreds of files, including files related to the manufacture of the product. Investigators allege that Tan was offered a job at a company in China where he planned to use these files to benefit his new employer. Tan has been residing in the United States for the past 12 years.

A criminal complaint is merely an allegation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. 

The FBI conducted this investigation.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel-lyn A. McCormick of the Northern District of Oklahoma is prosecuting the case, with assistance from Trial Attorneys Matthew R. Walczewski and Matthew J. McKenzie of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section (CES) and Assistant Deputy Chief Brian J. Resler of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crimes and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS).

Updated December 21, 2018

National Security
Press Release Number: 18-1688