Apple Engineer Accused of Stealing Autonomous Car Secrets

January 31, 2019, 11:33 AM UTC

U.S. prosecutors have charged Apple hardware engineer Jizhong Chen with industrial espionage after files containing sensitive manuals, schematics and diagrams were discovered on his personal hard drive, NBC Bay Area reports.

Chen worked in the driverless cars section of the company, which recently fired some 200 employees in a restructuring. In July, prosecutors accused another employee, Xialang Zhang, of similar espionage involving the same Apple program.

The arrest took place after an Apple employee reported Chen to security officials earlier this month for taking photographs in a restricted work area. NBC reports that investigators found about a hundred photographs taken inside an Apple building on his hard drive.

It is believed that Chen—who has posted a $100,000 cash bond—had lined up a job at the Chinese carmaker XMotors and was scheduled to depart for China the day after his arrest. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine

The charges arrive just as top Chinese officials visit the U.S. for trade talks. It is one in a growing number of U.S. federal cases focused on Chinese industrial spying. The U.S. just brought charges against Huawei after a long campaign pressuring allies against using its telecoms technology or taking the company’s research funding.

Apple told NBC, “We are working with authorities on this matter and are referring all questions to the FBI.”