Xiaolang Zhang, a former hardware engineer at Apple, was arrested at San Jose International Airport when he attempted to board a flight to Beijing carrying trade secrets.
Zhang was on his way to Hangzhou when he was charged with stealing autonomous driving trade secrets from Apple. He is facing a recommended 10 years of imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, a $100 special assessment, and three years of supervised release.
According to a court filing, Zhang worked on Apple’s self-driving car initiative, called “Project Titan,” as a member of the Compute Team. Due to this, Zhang had access to databases containing trade secrets and sensitive intellectual property.
In April, he left on paternity leave and visited China to be with his family. Upon his return, he notified his manager that he would be joining Chinese electric car startup XMotors. After turning in his company devices, Apple noticed an unusual download activity, leading them to believe he obtained and kept some information illegally.
Though he initially denied taking company property, he later admitted that he took several items, including two circuit boards and a Linux server. He also used AirDrop to transfer many files from his work laptop to his wife’s personal computer. Apple then notified the FBI who searched Zhang’s residence for these artifacts.
Zhang was promptly arrested at the airport after the FBI was notified that he purchased a ticket to leave the country. Zhang appeared in court on Monday, but he did not enter a plea.