4 Silicon Valley Executives Charged in Plot to Steal Semiconductor Technology

(The Mercury News/TNS) -

Four Silicon Valley executives have been charged in an alleged conspiracy to steal trade secrets from their employer, an unidentified semiconductor manufacturer.

The men — Liang Chen, Donald Olgado, Wei-Yung Hsu and Robert Ewald — are accused by the U.S. Justice Department of conspiring to use stolen information in a competing startup based in the U.S. and China.

The technology related to the high-volume manufacturing of semiconductor wafers is to be used in lighting and electronic devices.

The company is not named in the indictment, but public records show that the men were employed by semiconductor company Applied Materials Inc. of Santa Clara around 2012, the time of the alleged crime.

They allegedly downloaded information about the technology from their employer’s confidential internal engineering database, including over 16,000 drawings. They also shared emails describing their plans to use the technology in a new company and tried to recruit investors to fund the company.

Each man has been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets and eleven counts of possessing stolen trade secrets, according to the indictment, announced by U.S. Attorney Brian J. Stretch and FBI agent John F. Bennett. The charges were issued in an indictment handed down on Nov. 30 by a federal grand jury.

If convicted, they face up to 10 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine for each charge.

Chen was a corporate vice president and general manager of the company’s alternative energy products division; Olgado was a managing director of engineering within the product business group; Hsuwas was a vice president and general manager within the semiconductor LED division; and Ewald was a director of the energy and environmental systems within the alternative energy products division.