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Apple brings criminal charges against ex-member of autonomous-vehicle team

The ex-employee's theft included a variety of hardware and software data.

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Apple has filed charges for the theft of trade secrets against a former member of its self-driving car team, according to MacRumors.

The former employee, Xiaolang Zhang, was arrested trying to flee to China and questioned by the FBI regarding the theft of Apple's intellectual property, a crime to which he confessed. Apple has brought criminal charges against Zhang, and he could face up to 10 years imprisonment and a US$250,000 fine.

Zhang was hired in 2015 to work on Apple's self-driving car project designing and testing circuit boards that would analyze sensor data. In April of 2018, he took a period of family leave around the time of the birth of his son, during which he visited China. When he got back, he informed his boss that he was quitting Apple and going to China to work for an autonomous vehicle startup called XMotors.

His supervisor became suspicious (probably because Xiaolang was acting strangely) and called in Apple's New Product Security Team to investigate any possible wrongdoing. What they found was pretty severe. Zhang had not only taken documents from the company, some of which he AirDropped from his phone to his wife's laptop, but he also was brazen enough to come in on a Saturday night and steal a box of hardware that included circuit boards and a Linux server.

Mr. Zhang's case will go before a judge in Santa Clara County, California and while the maximum penalties are indeed severe for a guy who just had a kid, we'd be unsurprised to see Apple push for those maximum sentences, given the amount of data that Zhang made off with.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.