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4/3/2008
03:58 PM
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Random Search Stops $600 Million In Trade Secrets Bound For China

The feds have indicated a software engineer who was flying to China with confidential technical documents, a thumb drive, four external hard drives, 29 recordable compact discs, and a videotape.

A former software engineer for a telecommunications company based near Chicago was indicted for allegedly stealing trade secrets worth an estimated $600 million and trying to take the documents to China.

The FBI said Wednesday that Hanjuan Jin of Schaumburg, Ill., a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in China, was stopped at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport on Feb. 28, 2007, in a random search.

According to an affidavit filed by FBI special agent Michael R. Diekmann, Jin was traveling on a one-way ticket to Beijing at the time. She declared that she had $10,000 in U.S. currency in her carry-on luggage. Customs and Border Protection officers found about $30,000 in cash.

According to Diekmann, this prompted officers to further inspect Jin's luggage, whereupon they found several technical documents labeled "[Company A] Confidential Property," Chinese documents, a European company's product catalog of military technology written in English, a personal laptop computer, a thumb drive, four external hard drives, 29 recordable compact discs, and one videotape.

A search of the thumb drive and hard drives, conducted with Jin's consent, revealed numerous documents marked "[Company A] Confidential Property." Initially, Jin told customs officers she worked for Company A. In a subsequent interview with law enforcement agents, Jin said she was on medical leave from Company A. She later said she worked for Company A and Company B at the same time. Company B is a Chicago-area company that competes with Company A.

Diekmann's affidavit and the indictment do not name either Company A or Company B.

Schaumburg-based Motorola is one of several telecommunications companies that Jin might have worked for. Asked to confirm or deny whether Jin had ever worked for Motorola, company spokeswoman Paula Thornton said in an e-mail," We are not able to do so, as Motorola does not comment on questions associated with pending prosecutions or ongoing governmental investigations."

Nortel also maintains an office in Schaumburg. A Dallas-based spokeswoman for the company said she'd never heard the name Hanjuan Jin.

Another possibility might be American Telecommunications Corp. When called, the person answering the phone declined to make a media contact available and hung up.

Jin was released, though customs agents retained the documents marked confidential and her computer equipment. She was again stopped at O'Hare on March 1, 2007, while traveling on another one-way ticket to Beijing.

Following a subsequent search of her home, Jin was arrested on March 7 based on a criminal complaint brought by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. She was released on $50,000 bond.

If Jin is convicted, each of the three counts against her carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

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