Xiaolang Zhangone of the engineers working on the Apple Car project, was sentenced to prison for stealing secret information. A District Court determined that the defendant must serve 120 days in jail. The decision puts an end to a trial that dates back to 2018, when Zhang was detained at the airport in San Jose, California.
According to a legal document published by 9to5Macthe former Apple employee will pass four months in a minimum security prison, followed by 3 years of probation. In addition to that, the accused must pay $146,984 in restitution. The sentence was better than expected for Zhang, who faced up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
The problems began in mid-2018, when the former Apple engineer took paternity leave and traveled to China. Xiaolang Zhang He worked at Project Titan, the division in charge of developing an autonomous driving system. Upon his return, Zhang met with his supervisors and announced that he was resigning from the company because he had another job offer.
Xiaolang Zhang He put the noose around his neck by saying that he would go to Xpeng Motors, an electric car manufacturer funded by Alibaba and Lei Jun, founder of Xiaomi. His evasive behavior during the meeting aroused suspicion, so those in Cupertino began an investigation. After analyzing their devices, Apple’s security team discovered that Zhang downloaded and copied secret documents.
The FBI accused the former employee of stealing trade secrets and detained him at a California airport, moments before boarding a flight to China.
What is Xiaolang Zhang, the former Apple Car engineer, accused of?
Xiaolang Zhang worked for three years at Project Titan. During that time, she designed and tested circuit boards that analyzed data from the car’s sensors.
Prior to his resignation, Zhang downloaded confidential prototype information, including a 25-page document with schematics of an autonomous vehicle circuit board. Apple’s security team discovered an unusual spike in its devices’ data network, as well as evidence that stole a box of hardware from the premises.
While Zhang pleaded not guilty in court in 2018, he later admitted to the charges as part of a deal with the FBI. The former employee confessed that copied more than 40 GB of data to your partner’s computer, which included prototypes, battery system, voltage requirements and suspension supports. This spared him a longer sentence, although he will be required to pay nearly $150,000 to Apple after serving his sentence.
Zhang He is not the only one accused of stealing information from the Apple Car. Months after his arrest it was learned that Jizhong Chen, another employee of Apple’s secret division, stole information within weeks of starting his job. Unlike the first, Chen would have signed for Cupertino with the firm intention of extracting trade secrets.
Some colleagues discovered that the accused took photographs of the work area. After the events, Apple’s security team found thousands of files with confidential information on his computer, as well as screenshots and photos of schematics and manuals. Chen intended to travel to China to sign up with a self-driving car company, but the FBI detained him one day before fleeing the country.