In a flurry of activity by the recently established Disruptive Technology Strike Force, the Justice Department has publicized the indictment of individuals in five distinct cases, originating from five separate U.S. Attorney's offices. This marks the first enforcement actions taken by the Strike Force since its inception.
The Disruptive Technology Strike Force, a cooperative venture of the Departments of Justice and Commerce, was established to thwart attempts by hostile foreign powers to illegally obtain sensitive U.S. technology. The technology is often used by these nations to strengthen their oppressive regimes and enable human rights violations. This initiative has led to the unveiling of charges against multiple individuals across five cases. The accused individuals face allegations including export violations, smuggling, and trade secrets theft.
Two of the cases focus on disrupting networks reportedly set up to assist the Russian military and intelligence services in acquiring sensitive technology in breach of U.S. laws. In New York's Eastern District, a Greek citizen was arrested on May 9th for federal crimes related to his alleged involvement in acquiring a variety of sensitive technologies for the Russian government. He also allegedly acted as a procurement agent for two Russian entities operating under Russia's intelligence services. In Arizona, two Russian citizens were arrested for their part in a procurement scheme designed to provide several Russian commercial airlines with export-controlled parts and components.
Additionally, two cases involve former software engineers accused of stealing software and hardware source codes from U.S. tech firms to sell to Chinese competitors. On May 5th, a senior software engineer was apprehended in California's Central District for alleged theft of trade secrets related to metrology software used in intelligent automotive manufacturing equipment. This stolen technology was allegedly sold to numerous Chinese companies. In Northern California, a citizen of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and a former Apple engineer, is accused of stealing thousands of documents related to the source code for Apple’s autonomous vehicle technology. The accused has since fled to China and is presumed to be working with a PRC-based autonomous vehicle competitor (see below).
The final case relates to a Chinese procurement network set up to supply Iran with materials used in the production of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and ballistic missiles. In New York's Southern District, a PRC citizen is accused of being involved in a scheme to use his employer to conduct transactions with a U.S. financial institution for the benefit of an alleged Iranian entity.
"Our commitment to safeguard sensitive American technology from illegal acquisition by our adversaries prompted the creation of the Disruptive Technology Strike Force," said Matthew S. Axelrod, Assistant Secretary for Export Enforcement at the Department of Commerce. "The actions taken by the Strike Force today encapsulate our core mission – ensuring the most dangerous hands in the world do not get hold of our country's most sensitive technologies."
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