A jury on Friday convicted a Chinese national of trying to steal trade secrets from several US aviation and aerospace companies, including theft of proprietary airplane engine fan technology.
The government alleged that in December 2013, Yanjun Xu recruited specialists working at airlines including GE Aviation in Cincinnati.
The government said Xu was deputy division director at the Chinese Ministry of State Security, the country’s intelligence and security agency. Federal prosecutors said Xu and others would pay experts stipends to travel to China under the guise of making a university presentation.
Specifically, Xu was accused of trying to steal technology related to GE Aviation’s composite aircraft engine fan, by other companies to benefit the Chinese government, said Vipal Patel, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio. , which includes Cincinnati, said on Friday.
Xu and other operatives discussed how they would obtain “highly sensitive information” from experts, court documents said.
Patel’s office said Xu was arrested in Belgium in 2018 after traveling to visit a GE employee in Europe, and later extradited to the United States.
Xu was charged with conspiracy and attempted economic espionage and theft of trade secrets. He pleaded not guilty, but pleaded guilty to all charges on Friday after a two-week trial.
Xu faces up to 25 years in prison and a $5 million fine. No sentencing date was set.
Messages were left for his lawyers, who have argued that Xu is not a spy and never asked for trade secrets, and that the case involved a legal exchange of trade information.