A former Indiana scientist accused of illegally sending trade secrets worth $300 million to China likely will remain in custody until he faces charges of economic espionage.
A federal indictment unsealed Tuesday in Indianapolis charges 45-year-old Ke-xue "John" Huang with theft and attempted theft of trade secrets to benefit a foreign government, the People's Republic of China. IBJ reported Huang's arrest last month.
Prosecutors say that Huang, who was born in China, passed on information on an organic insecticide valued at more than $300 million to Hunan Normal University while he worked as a researcher for Dow AgroSciences in Indiana from January 2003 to February 2008.
U.S. Attorney Cynthia Ridgeway said Huang engaged in "patient and calculating maneuvering" to gain access to Dow Agro's trade secrets and had been working on plans for a company that would begin selling a competing product as soon as the Dow patents expire.
"He now has the full recipe: the products, the manufacturing facilities and patents about to expire," said Ridgeway, who cited three e-mails that suggest Huang was working on a business plan built on his insider information.
Huang has been held since his arrest July 13 in Massachusetts, where he now lives. Ridgeway argued he is a flight risk, a seasoned world traveler with minimal ties to the U.S. and a strong incentive to flee prosecution and set up shop making chemicals overseas.
Releasing Huang from custody could cause "irreversible" economic damage to Dow Agro and the local community, she argued.
Huang's attorney, Michael Donahue, disagreed, pointing to the fact he and his wife just put their life savings into a new house near Boston. The couple are Canadian citizens and have two children, one a U.S. citizen and the other Canadian. And they've surrendered passports, meaning they cannot leave the country.
Magistrate Judge Kennard Foster, who entered a not-guilty plea on Huang's behalf, agreed with prosecutors that he is a flight risk.
The indictment lists 17 charges, 12 of them involving theft or attempted theft of trade secrets and 5 counts of interstate and foreign transportation of stolen property, under the 14-year-old Economic Espionage Act. The law is aimed at those who knowingly target or acquire trade secrets and knowingly benefit any foreign government or instrumentality.
Dow AgroSciences, which employs 1,200 people locally, is a unit of Dow Chemical Co.