Ex-Apple engineer charged for attempting to steal tech, fleeing to China

(Photo credit: HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images)

Oan Brooke Mallory
1:20pm Update – Tuesday, May 16, 2023

The U.S. government on Tuesday announced indictments in five cases linked to alleged attempts to steal technology for China, Russia and Iran.


One of the cases involved former Apple engineer Weibao Wang, 35, who fled arrest after being charged with stealing the company’s technology for self-driving cars and other self-driving systems. fled.

A press conference held by the Justice Department discussed cases involving theft of technology and trade secrets. Two of the cases involved a procurement network developed to help the Russian military and intelligence services obtain classified technology, according to U.S. officials.

Five cases have come to light for the first time, although the investigation began in February before the US “attack force” was established.

“We remain vigilant in enforcing U.S. law to prevent the release of classified technology to foreign adversaries,” said Matt Olsen, Director of the Department of National Security. “We are committed to doing everything in our power to keep these advanced tools out of the hands of foreign adversaries.”

Wang, a former Apple engineer, was hired by the company in 2016 and previously lived in Mountain View, Calif., according to the April indictment released Tuesday.

Before leaving Apple in 2017, he worked for a Chinese company developing self-driving cars in the United States. However, according to the indictment, he waited about four months before informing Apple of his new position.

After his final days, Apple executives learned that he had obtained a large amount of classified information in the days before his vacation, according to the Justice Department. In June 2018, federal officials searched his residence and found “massive amounts” of Apple data. The man boarded a plane to China shortly after the search, the ministry said.

Dubbed “Project Titan,” Apple’s automotive ambitions have developed unevenly since the company started building cars from scratch in 2014. Sources in December said Apple had decided to delay the car’s debut until 2026. The company now plans to test the car on California roads, according to a report filed with authorities.

An Apple representative declined a request for comment.

In another China-related case, U.S. prosecutors also charged Leemin Lee, 64, of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., with stealing trade secrets from his employer to start a rival company in China. .

Nikolaos “Nikos” Bogonikolos, 49, of Greece, who worked as a defense contractor for NATO, has been accused by New York prosecutors of smuggling US military technology to Russia.

Oleg Sergeevich Patlya and Vasily Sergeevich Besedin, both of Russian descent, were each indicted in Arizona for using a company established in Florida to send aircraft parts to a Russian airline. The Department of Commerce terminated export licenses at the same time.

In addition, Shanjiang Chao, 39, also known as Joe Hansen, is accused of using a Chinese company subject to U.S. sanctions to supply Iran with materials for the development of weapons of mass destruction. indicted by New York authorities.

Four others have been detained, but Qiao and Wang remain fugitives in China, U.S. officials said.

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