China-born US citizen charged over alleged theft of American trade secrets

Kinling Lo, South China Morning Post

Posted at Oct 08 2020 02:25 PM

A naturalised US citizen from China, his wife and their company, have been charged with a total of 24 counts related to the alleged theft of trade secrets valued at millions of US dollars.

The charges against Haoyang Yu, 41, and Tricon MMIC, a company he and his wife established, include possession and attempted possession of a trade secret, transporting stolen goods, visa fraud and smuggling.

In addition, Yu, who was born in the northeastern Chinese city of Harbin, and his wife Yanzhi Chen, 22, were charged with three counts of wire fraud and aiding and abetting wire fraud, according to the US Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts.

The charges relate to proprietary information from Analog Devices (ADI), a Nasdaq-listed semiconductor company that Yu worked for.

According to the statement, Yu’s job at ADI gave him access to data and information relating to ADI’s present and future product designs, schematics, manufacturing files and testing procedures.

The indictment alleges that Yu sold 20 ADI designs as his own.

Yu and Tricon MMIC were also charged with smuggling export-controlled technology from the United States to Taiwan without obtaining the necessary export licence from the US Department of Commerce.

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The indictment supersedes charges in June 2019 against Yu and Tricon MMIC for allegedly stealing, copying, downloading, and possessing trade secrets from ADI.

“Yu is charged with a massive theft of proprietary trade secret information from his former employer for the purpose of setting up his own company and marketing their products as his own,” US Attorney Andrew Lelling said in a statement in June 2019, adding that the files involved were worth millions of dollars.

Yu pleaded not guilty to the charges in June. His lawyer said the case unfairly painted him as a Chinese spy and he was being prosecuted because of his ethnicity, according to court documents filed in June this year.

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The case comes as US authorities step up investigations into intellectual property theft in the tech sector.

Semiconductor technology has been one of the most sensitive areas for geopolitical rivalry between the US and China, as the industry is critical to a suite of advanced technologies – including the next generation of wireless networks, artificial intelligence and connected devices – that could give either country an economic or military edge in the future.

In July last year, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation said it had opened 1,000 investigations into attempted intellectual property theft, nearly all of them involving Chinese.

Beijing has rejected Washington’s accusations of concerted state efforts to steal such secrets.

The law firm representing Yu has been contacted for comment.

Yu, who has also been known as “Jack Yu”, “Harry Yu” and “Jack Tricon”, first came to the United States in 2002 through a student visa programme. He became a naturalised US citizen in March 2017 and was the principal design engineer for ADI from July 2014 to July 2017.

Yu was released on bail last year and expected to stand in a jury trial in a Massachusetts court later this year.