WASHINGTON (AFP) - A Chinese scientist was sentenced to two years in prison on Thursday (Feb 27) for stealing next-generation battery technology from the American petroleum company where he worked.
Hongjin Tan, 36, a Chinese national and permanent legal resident of the United States, was arrested in December 2018 and pleaded guilty in November of last year to stealing trade secrets.
US District Court Judge Gregory Frizzell of the Northern District of Oklahoma sentenced Tan to 24 months in federal prison and ordered him to pay US$150,000 (S$290,000) in restitution to his former employer.
The market value of the next-generation battery technology Tan was accused of stealing was more than US$1 billion, the Justice Department said in a statement.
"This investigation and prosecution uncovered another instance of China's persistent attempts to steal American intellectual property," assistant attorney general John Demers said.
FBI special agent Melissa Godbold said "American companies invest heavily in advanced research and cutting-edge technology.
"Trade secret theft is detrimental to our national security and free-market economy," Godbold said.
"It takes profits away from companies and jobs away from hard-working Americans."
Tan worked as an associate scientist for the US petroleum company from June 2017 until his arrest, the Justice Department said.
The department did not name the company but a LinkedIn page for Hongjin Tan identifies him as a staff scientist with the disruptive technologies team at Phillips 66 in Oklahoma.
He previously worked as a research assistant and visiting scientist at the California Institute of Technology, where he earned his doctorate.