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Press Release

Businessman Sentenced to a Year in Prison for Stealing Employer’s Trade Secrets While Planning New Job in China

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Illinois

CHICAGO — A federal judge has sentenced a 30-year employee of a McHenry County manufacturing firm to a year and a day in federal prison for stealing trade secret information while planning to work for a rival company in China.

ROBERT O’ROURKE, 59, of Lake Geneva, Wisc., was convicted earlier this year by a federal jury in Chicago on seven counts of theft of trade secrets.  In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Judge Andrea R. Wood on Wednesday also fined O’Rourke $100,000.

The sentence was announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; and Larry L. Lapp, acting Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago office of the FBI.

“Theft of trade secrets is a serious offense with wide-ranging consequences to the victim companies and the United States economy,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Shoba Pillay argued in the government's sentencing memorandum. “A would-be insider thief must understand the consequences of stealing their employer's trade secrets in order to benefit competitors, particularly when those competitors are based in China.” 

Ms. Pillay and Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher V. Parente represented the government.

According to evidence at trial, O’Rourke since 1984 worked for Dura-Bar, a Woodstock-based manufacturer of continuous cast-iron products.  O’Rourke held the positions of plant metallurgist, quality assurance manager and salesperson, and helped the company develop business in China and other locations.  In late 2013, O’Rourke began several months of negotiations to take a similar job with a rival firm in Jiangsu, China.

In September 2015, while still employed at Dura-Bar, O’Rourke accepted the job offer in China.  He then downloaded electronic data and documents belonging to Dura-Bar without authorization two days before officially leaving the company.  The following week, he packed up the proprietary information and went to O’Hare International Airport in Chicago to board a flight to China.  Federal authorities intervened at the airport and seized the stolen trade secrets from O’Rourke before he could travel to China.

Updated October 10, 2019

Intellectual Property
National Security