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Press Release

Four Executives Of Bay Area Semiconductor Equipment Manufacturer Charged In Alleged Conspiracy To Steal Technology And Related Crimes

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of California
Defendants planned to use stolen technology for competing startup with offices in China and the U.S.

SAN FRANCISCO – Liang Chen, Donald Olgado, Wei-Yung Hsu, and Robert Ewald were charged for their respective roles in an alleged scheme to steal trade secrets from a Bay Area semiconductor chip equipment manufacturer, announced United States Attorney Brian J. Stretch and Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett.  The charges were issued in an indictment handed down on November 30, 2017, by a federal grand jury.  

According to the indictment, the defendants were employed at a Silicon Valley-based semiconductor manufacturer as follows: Chen, 52, of Saratoga, Calif., was a corporate vice president and general manager of the alternative energy products division; Olgado, 54, of Palo Alto, was a managing director of engineering within the product business group; Hsu, 57, of San Jose, was a vice president and general manager within the semiconductor LED division; and Ewald, 60, of Aptos, was a director of the energy and environmental systems within the alternative energy products division. The indictment alleges that in September of 2012, while the defendants were still employed by the semiconductor equipment manufacturer, they conspired to steal their employer’s trade secrets and use them in a competing company to be based in the United States and the People’s Republic of China.

According to the indictment, the technology at issue was developed by the semiconductor equipment manufacturer through years of research and testing, and through millions of dollars in investment. The technology related to the high-volume manufacturing of semiconductor wafers to be used in lighting and electronic devices, such as flat screen televisions and smart phones.  The indictment explains that the production of the wafers is highly sophisticated and must occur under “clean room” conditions by a fully automated process controlled by computers.  The defendants allegedly downloaded information relating to this technology from their employer’s confidential internal engineering database, including over 16,000 drawings; shared plans in multiple emails describing their plans to use the technology in a new startup company; and attempted to recruit investors in order to fund the new startup which would operate in the United States and China.  In sum, each defendant was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1832(a)(5), and eleven counts of possessing stolen trade secrets, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1832(a)(3) & 2.  

An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  The maximum sentence for a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1832(a)(5) is 10 years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.  The maximum sentence for a violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1832(a)(3) & 2 is 10 years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.  

Any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court only after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.  

The defendants are scheduled to be arraigned on the indictment on December 15, 2017, before the Honorable Susan van Keulen, United States Magistrate Judge.  

Assistant United States Attorney Susan Knight is prosecuting this case with assistance from Elise Etter. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. 

Updated December 21, 2017

Financial Fraud
Intellectual Property