Chinese citizen, Google employee arrested for stealing trade secrets

A Chinese citizen living in Newark was arrested and charged on Wednesday morning with stealing confidential artificial intelligence (AI) files from Google while he was employed as a software engineer. 

The indictment, released by the US Department of Justice this morning, states he allegedly stole more than 500 confidential files surrounding the development of artificial intelligence, and replicated the information at two Chinese companies.

The FBI arrested 38-year-old Linwei Ding, known as Leon, from his home in Newark.

Ding, a Chinese citizen, started working as a software engineer at Google in 2019, according to the DOJ.

The indictment states that in May 2022, Ding began periodically uploading trade secrets stored in Google’s network by copying the information to a personal Google Cloud account. 

While employed at Google, US Attorney for the Northern District of California, Ismail Ramsey, said Ding simultaneously worked for a Chinese tech start-up where he acted as Chief Technology Officer, and a second company he founded and operated out of China. 

"One of the company’s explicit goals was to replicate and upgrade Google’s platform – the same platform about which ding had stolen Google’s trade secrets," Ramsey said.

Ding is also accused of traveling to China to do business deals while he was a Google employee and covering up his crimes.

US Attorney General Merrick Garland, during a visit to San Francisco, shared the US leads in AI technology, saying it’s important for our economy and national security.

"The Justice Department’s first job is to protect that lead and to protect our intellectual property," said Garland. "The Justice Department just will not tolerate theft of our trade secrets in the area of artificial intelligence."


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A Google spokesperson, Jose Castaneda, wrote in an email "We have strict safeguards to prevent the theft of our confidential commercial information and trade secrets."

He went on to say, "After an investigation, we found that this employee stole numerous documents, and we quickly referred the case to law enforcement. We are grateful to the FBI for helping protect our information and will continue cooperating with them closely."

Ding was charged with four counts of theft of trade secrets. If convicted, he could face 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count. 

Federal investigators said they take this kind of crime seriously, and they’re working closely with companies in Silicon Valley to prevent it.