Ex-Spouses Plead Guilty to Receiving and Laundering Money Stolen from Retirement and Investment Accounts
RICHMOND, Va. – A former Executive for a global industrial manufacturing conglomerate (Company 1), pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to convert trade secrets.
According to court documents, John Gibson, 58, of Winter Park, Florida, was the former Executive Vice President of Power Generation and the Head of Sales for North America for Company 1. From May to June of 2019, he conspired with others to misappropriate combustion turbine-related trade secrets of two competitor companies, General Electric Company (GE) and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. (MHI), for the benefit of Company 1. Gibson’s co-conspirators were Theodore Fasca, 57, of Richmond, the former Director of Generation System Planning at Dominion Energy, Inc. (Dominion), a Virginia-based utility company, and Michael Hillen, 56, of Midlothian, a former Account Manager at Company 1.
In March 2019, Dominion sought to build a “Peaker" combustion turbine power plant in Chesterfield with a projected cost of upwards of $500 million. Peaker plants are specifically designed to add electricity generation capacity to alleviate high grid load and improve electric grid resiliency. To build the plant, Dominion opened a competitive, closed bid process soliciting requests for proposals from qualified companies. Three companies bid for the work: GE, MHI, and Company 1. All companies signed non-disclosure agreements restricting the disclosure of confidential information provided to Dominion during the bid.
After GE, MHI, and Company 1 submitted their closed bids to Dominion, Fasca and Hillen organized to repeatedly funnel GE and MHI confidential information, often using private email accounts, to Company 1. Gibson received the GE and MHI trade secrets knowing such information to be illegally obtained. Nevertheless, Gibson strategically disseminated it to other senior executives, to leaders within Company 1’s business intelligence unit, and to representatives of Company 1’s parent company in Germany.
Gibson’s dissemination of the GE and MHI trade secrets was calculated to provide Company 1 with a competitive advantage in the bid for the Dominion Peaker Project, to the detriment of GE and MHI; improve Company 1’s business intelligence; and provide Company 1 with a competitive advantage in future bids against GE and MHI. After learning of GE’s and MHI’s bids for the Dominion Peaker Project, Gibson authorized and obtained approvals within Company 1, including from the CEO for Power Generation, to resubmit a lower bid for the Dominion Peaker Project and undercut GE’s bid. Company 1 won the bid for the Peaker Project with Dominion.
The losses to victims reasonably foreseeable to Gibson were between $25 million and $65 million. The losses to victims reasonably foreseeable to Fasca and Hillen were between $9.5 million and $25 million.
Both Fasca and Hillen have pleaded guilty to their roles in the conspiracy and are scheduled to be sentenced on March 1, 2024, and April 11, 2024, respectively. Both defendants face a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison. Gibson is scheduled to be sentenced on May 29, 2024. He faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Jessica D. Aber, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Stanley M. Meador, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Richmond Field Office; and Damon E. Wood, Inspector in Charge of the Washington Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, made the announcement after U.S. District Judge David J. Novak accepted the plea.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Avi Panth and Kenneth R. Simon, Jr. are prosecuting the case. Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael R. Gill assisted the prosecution.
A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case Nos. 3:23-cr-137, 3:23-cr-83, and 3:23-cr-120.