Caught Red-Handed: Motorola thief 'betrayed country'

August 29, 2012 11:16:57 AM PDT
In February 2007, Hanjuan Jin was almost home free.

Ms. Jin was nabbed by federal agents at Chicago's O'Hare Airport, just a few steps away from a flight to her native China.

Jin's next steps will be to a federal penitentiary, after she was sentenced Wednesday afternoon to four years for stealing trade secrets from Motorola.

U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo issued the sentence after finding her guilty earlier this year of taking more than 1,000 confidential documents from the Schaumburg headquarters of Motorola where she worked as a software engineer.

Judge Castillo said Jin "was willing to betray her naturalized country."

Prosecutors contended the secrets the Chinese-born American carried included descriptions of a walkie-talkie type feature on Motorola cell phones that could benefit China's military. Authorities described Jin as an intelligence operative for the Chinese government, intent on stealing information from Motorola for use by China.

Assistant US Attorney Steve Dollear said that Jin "lied numerous times to the federal government and Motorola." Dollear said "When she was caught red handed, she lied."

The case highlighted persistent fears about China pilfering vital information from U.S. companies, especially for use by the Chinese military.

Jin's lawyers said that she took the files merely to refresh her knowledge after a long medical absence from work. They requested probation for the slightly-built suburban woman, who hardly fit the Hollywood definition of a foreign spy.

In conversations with the ABC7 I-Team after she was arrested, Jin repeatedly denied that she was a spy and said that federal authorities were mistaken.

Before sentencing, Jin told the judge "I am so sorry for what happened. It will never happen again." Then she asked for the judge's mercy.

Her attorney John Murphy called Ms. Jin a "kind, caring, trusting, decent and reliable person" who is "forever cut off from her family."

Although prosecutors prescribed a sentencing range that could have put Jin behind bars for as long as any American ever convicted of corporate theft, Judge Castillo eschewed both the prosecutor's request and the defense's notion of probation.

Castillo sentenced her to four years, a year less than the lowest sentence asked for by the government, saying that he was mindful of her tentative medical condition. Jin, a cancer victim, is currently in remission. She also claims to have had tuberculosis and various other maladies.

She has to report to federal prison by October 25.

Neither Ms. Jin nor her attorneys would speak with reporters as they left the Dirksen Federal Building in downtown Chicago.

Gary S. Shapiro, Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, said the four-year sentence "reinforces the message that federal courts view the theft of trade secrets as a serious crime that warrants significant punishment."

Shapiro pledged that federal agencies "will do everything we can to guard our economic and national security from the theft of American trade secrets, and this case shows that we can work with victim corporations to protect the trade secrets involved."


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