Former Monsanto scientist pleads guilty to stealing trade secret for China

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ST. LOUIS – A man from China recently pleaded guilty to stealing a trade secret from Monsanto.

The AP reports that Haitao Xiang, 44, formerly lived in Chesterfield and worked as an imaging scientist for Monsanto and its subsidiary, The Climate Corporation, from 2008 to 2017.

“Federal prosecutors say Xiang transferred a trade secret to a memory card for the benefit of the Chinese government,” according to the AP article.

He was arrested and returned to the U.S. from China.

On Thursday, Xiang pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy to commit economic espionage. He faces a maximum term of 15 years in prison, a potential fine of $5 million, and a term of supervised release of not more than three years, according to a press release.

Xiang’s sentencing will be April 7.

“Mr. Xiang used his insider status at a major international company to steal valuable trade secrets for use in his native China,” United States Attorney Sayler Fleming said in the press release. 

“We cannot allow U.S. citizens or foreign nationals to hand sensitive business information over to competitors in other countries, and we will continue our vigorous criminal enforcement of economic espionage and trade secret laws. These crimes present a danger to the U.S. economy and jeopardize our nation’s leadership in innovation and our national security.”

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection, and prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Missouri, the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section of the National Security Division of the Department of Justice, and the Computer Crimes and Intellectual Property Section of the Department of Justice. 

“When economic espionage is done at the behest of a foreign government, the loss of proprietary trade secrets destroys more than just the victim company. A foreign government can exploit and scale the information in such a way that it robs U.S. companies of their market share and competitive advantage,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Spencer Evans of the FBI St. Louis Division. 

“The FBI aggressively investigates theft of trade secret and economic espionage. If your organization is a victim or has questions about how to prevent such crimes, please contact FBI St. Louis at 314-589-2500.”

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