Two Louisiana Residents Indicted for Conspiracy to Steal Trade Secrets, Attempting to Steal Trade Secrets, Conspiracy to Commit Computer Fraud and Abuse, and Committing Computer Fraud and Abuse
A federal grand jury recently returned a four-count indictment charging EHAB MESELHE, age 53, a U.S. citizen living in Lafayette and New Orleans, Louisiana, and KELIN HU, age 42, a Chinese citizen, lawfully living in the United States, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with conspiracy to steal trade secrets, attempting to steal trade secrets, and conspiracy to commit computer fraud and abuse. HU was also charged with committing computer fraud and abuse. MESELHE and HU appeared for their arraignment in court and pleaded not guilty to the pending charges.
The indictment alleges that MESELHE and HU, former employees of the Water Institute of the Gulf (“Water Institute”), engaged in a plan to steal computer trade secrets from the Water Institute. The Water Institute is an applied scientific research organization in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which studies and consults on land subsidence, storms, rising sea levels, and other coastal threats. Of special importance to this work was a highly valuable and closely protected computer program that allowed the Water Institute to project how the natural environment of the Mississippi Delta will change over time.
According to the allegations contained in the indictment, MESELHE and HU planned and attempted to take the trade secrets from the Water Institute computer network, download them to personal electronic devices, and then misappropriate those trade secrets for their own economic benefit.
The indictment further alleges that MESELHE instructed HU about which computer files to copy, making sure they included the trade secret, when to copy them in relation to HU’s anticipated resignation from the Water Institute, and how to communicate with MESELHE via personal Google Message and email so as to avoid detection by the Water Institute. According to the indictment, HU was attempting to download the computer files of the Water Institute, as MESELHE had instructed, to personal computer devices HU had brought into his office, when he was caught in the act.
U.S. Attorney Brandon J. Fremin stated, “Theft of proprietary information and intellectual property for personal gain will not be tolerated by this office, especially where the theft is from a research institution whose purpose is to study environmental impacts so that we can best protect our citizens from natural and man-made disasters and other coastal threats. Businesses, universities, and many other organizations like the Water Institute invest tremendous amounts of time, talent and money in creating proprietary information to advance their various missions – they should be protected too. I commend our prosecutor and the FBI for their outstanding efforts and for leading a complex investigation that culminated in this indictment. I would also like to acknowledge the quick response from the Baton Rouge Police Department in bringing this very important matter to our attention.”
This matter was initiated by Baton Rouge Police Department and is being investigated by the Baton Rouge Resident Agency of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Brian Frazier.
NOTE: An indictment is an accusation by a grand jury. The defendants are presumed innocent until and unless adjudicated guilty at trial or through a guilty plea.