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Xiaolang Zhang, a former Apple engineer, pleaded guilty to criminal charges that he stole proprietary information from the company while preparing to go work for a Chinese startup that makes electric cars with autonomous driving features.
Zhang was working on a self-driving car project from 2015 to 2018. When he quit his job at Apple, he told his supervisor that he was going to work for Guangzhou Xiaopeng Motors Technology, a Chinese EV startup also known as Xpeng. He was arrested in July 2018 on his way to catch a one-way flight to China.
During an investigation, Apple determined that he had transferred around 24GB of “highly problematic” data to his wife’s laptop via AirDrop, and had also taken circuit boards and a server from the company’s autonomous vehicle lab.
According CNBC, Zhang pled guilty to the single theft of trade secrets count listed in his indictment. A conference to determine his sentencing is scheduled for November 14th. According to US law, theft of trade secrets comes with a maximum prison sentence of 10 years, and CNBC reports Zhang could face up to a quarter-million dollar fine.
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