Engineer charged in theft of Apple self-driving car secrets

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Chen worked in the driverless cars section of the company, which recently fired some 200 employees in a restructuring.

Apple hired Jizhong Chen last June to work on its self-driving Vehicle project, which employs around 1,200 people. After an employee saw him taking photos in a sensitive work area, the company conducted an investigation that discovered thousands of sensitive documents on his personal computer, including roughly a hundred photos from inside an Apple building. One of the photos dated June showed "assembly drawing of a wire harness for an autonomous vehicle".

This is not the first time when a Chinese citizen is been charged with stealing secrets from the Apple project. According to CNBC, Chen told Apple he started backing up his work files on his personal computer as an "insurance policy", after he had been placed on a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) in December 2018.

Chen recently applied for a job at Chinese autonomous auto company XMotors. Review of his activities revealed Zhang had been extremely active on Apple's network just prior to his trip to China and had made an unusual Saturday visit to his workplace just prior to resigning. The next month, a co-worker noticed Chen taking photos of the self-driving auto project and alerted superiors, the filing said.

Chen could face up to 10 years in the clink for such thievery and even be hit with a fine topping out at $250,000. He has been released on $500,000 bail after lodging $100,000 in cash and putting some property up as collateral.

In July, another Apple employee was accused of stealing information about the iPhone maker's robocar project to be provided to a China-based competitor.

Earlier this month Patently Apple posted a report wherein National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said that one the key points in the US-Trade talks is about China's ongoing IP theft.

"We are working with authorities on this matter and are referring all questions to the Federal Bureau of Investigation", it added.

The accused is Jizhong Chen, a native of China.

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