The U.S. Justice department announced the indictment of six Chinese nationals Tuesday, just two days after one of the defendants was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport.
The group is accused of stealing trade secrets — including source code and other proprietary information — from Skyworks Solutions Inc. and Avago Technologies to start ROFS Microsystems and "obtain contracts for providing FBARs to commercial and military entities," according to the U.S. Justice Department. FBAR technology is a radio frequency filter that can be used in cell phones, tablets, and GPS devices.
Hao Zhang, 36, was arrested Sunday when he tried to re-enter the U.S. in Los Angeles. The Tianjin University professor was also a former employee of Skyworks, according to the indictment. Also accused are Wei Pang, 35, a Tianjin professor and former employee of Avago, Jinping Chen, 41, a professor at Tianjin University, Huisui Zhang, 34, a former classmate of Zhang and Pang in California, Chong Zhou, 26, a Tianjin graduate student, and Zhao Gang, 39, the general manager of ROFS Microsystems.
All were charged with conspiracy to commit economic espionage and conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets. Zhang, Pang, and Zhou were also hit with charges of economic espionage and theft of trade secrets, according to the indictment filed on April 1, 2015.
Zhang and Pang met while electrical engineering doctoral students at a university in Southern California. The two graduated in 2005 and took jobs with Avago and Skyworks.
The two partnered with the other co-conspirators between 2006 and 2007 to start their own business and reached out to Chinese universities for a partnership to manufacture FBAR technologies, according to the indictment. In 2008 Zhang and Pang partnered with Tianjin University and by mid-2009 they had quit their jobs with Avago and Skyworks and took full time teaching positions at Tianjin while starting ROFS Microsystems.
The defendants face up to 50 years in prison, if convicted on all charges.
Jessica Simeone is a news assignment editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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