Former Apple Engineer Pleads Guilty to Stealing Apple Car Trade Secrets

Former Apple engineer Xiaolang Zhang pleaded guilty to stealing auto trade secrets from the company in a federal court on Monday, as detailed in a report from CNBC.

Zhang was arrested in July 2018 at the San Jose airport as he attempted to fly to China.

The secrets were taken in the form of computer files, and Zhang could now face 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 after pleading guilty to the felony charge. Sentencing is set to take place in November, and court filings show that a plea agreement with the U.S. government is now under seal.

Zhang was accused of downloading internal files on the Apple Car Project, including a 25-page document containing schematics for an autonomous vehicle’s circuit board. Additionally, Zhang was accused of taking reference manuals and PDFs regarding the Apple Car prototype and specific prototype regulations.

Before his arrest in 2018, Zhang had worked for Apple for around three years. In the charging documents, an FBI agent said the company had around 5,000 “disclosed” employees who were aware of the project, while around 2,700 “core employees” had access to databases of project materials.

The Apple Car project recently hired former Lamborghini veteran Luigi Taraborrelli, after the company has had trouble retaining employees involved with the self-driving car project throughout the last year.