Decade after China secrets case, suburban woman off the hook

CHICAGO (WLS) -- When computer engineer Hanjuan Jin was first exposed by the I-Team as a corporate espionage suspect a decade ago, concerns about Chinese spy-craft were just gaining traction.

Now, with Jin's tech days at Motorola long gone and her conviction and prison sentence in the books, the Chinese-born American is also free and clear of the courts.

Chief U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo in Chicago on Tuesday granted early termination of Jin's court supervision, two years before its expiration date.

Her attorneys hail her as "low risk" and a cooperative supervisee who has sought employment training to prepare herself for the workforce.

The last time Jin, 47, was gainfully employed it didn't end well for her or her employer, then Schaumburg-based tech giant Motorola.

A graduate of the Illinois Institute of Technology, she had been working at Motorola headquarters since 1998 as a software engineer and living in a comfortable townhouse not far from her job.

In 2006 and '07 Jin went on medical leave from Motorola.

Despite claiming to be deathly ill, investigators said she traveled from Chicago to Beijing where she agreed to work for a Chinese tech company affiliated with the state military, that allegedly recruited her to steal Motorola secrets.

"The federal government is saying basically that you're a corporate spy. What about that?" Jin was asked during a 2008 interview with ABC7 investigative reporter Chuck Goudie.

"No, I'm not. I'm not. I'm not," she responded.

"You're not a spy?" Goudie inquired.

"They made a mistake," Jin said.

According to the indictment, a Chinese executive told Jin, "You should share in the fruit of our collective effort," once she'd stolen top-secret Motorola files, schematics and military communication plans.

When Jin returned to Motorola from medical leave in February of 2007, authorities said she did just that, downloading hundreds of confidential documents from the company's supposedly secure internal network, including documents related to public safety organizations in Africa, the Middle East and Europe.

Two days later, she arrived at O'Hare Airport with a one-way ticket to Beijing.

"What were you doing at O'Hare Airport with a one-way ticket to China?" Goudie asked.

"I go to visit my mom. My husband and my mom are China," she said.

Hanjuan Jin was just a few steps away from boarding a United 747 non-stop to China. It was only a routine check of passengers by customs agents that revealed she was carrying $30,000 in cash after declaring she had only $10,000.

"Why were you on a one-way ticket?" Goudie asked.

"Because I can buy it cheaper to China," Jin said.

"They say you're a spy," Goudie said.

"They say that, but it's not true. They make mistake. They're paranoid. They wrongly accuse me. I have fatal disease," Jin said.

"What is the fatal disease?" Goudie asked.

"I have TB and meningitis," Jin said.

"You have tuberculosis?" Goudie asked.

"I almost died," Jin responded.

During the search of Jin and her bags at O'Hare, federal agents said they found a laptop computer and more than 30 compact data storage devices containing stolen Motorola files.

Jin told the I-Team those files had been given to her by a supervisor at Motorola to refresh her memory from the medical leave.

Federal prosecutors took Jin to trial in Chicago and received a split verdict. She was convicted of stealing trade secrets but acquitted of corporate espionage. Jin's lawyers argued that the information she'd taken did not fit the definition of trade secrets. They maintained the technologies were not cutting edge and said Motorola had not secured the documents in a way that would suggest the company considered them to be vital secrets.

Judge Castillo found that Jin had "criminally betrayed Motorola" but he said she wasn't working on behalf of a foreign government or company.

Regardless, Jin was sentenced to four years in a federal penitentiary and three years of court supervision-all of which has now ended.

According to Jin's attorneys she has sought job training with the Cara program that helps people with criminal convictions find work. Cara says that Jin has recently completed two I-T assignments with "glowing" reviews and is looking for work either in the auto industry or food services.
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