An electrical engineer from Glendale has been convicted of 32 counts of violating the Economic Espionage Act for stealing trade secrets belonging to his former employer – a Pasadena-based aircraft avionics company – and distributing the proprietary material to three competitors.
Derek Wai Hung Tam Sing, 44, was found guilty by United States District Judge Christina A. Snyder, who presided over a bench trial in September. Judge Snyder last week issued a 28-page ruling in which she convicted Sing of 32 counts and acquitted him of one charge.
Sing worked at Rogerson Kratos (RK) in 2012. Until he was fired by the company, Sing had access to RK trade secrets, and he signed a confidentiality agreement that prohibited him from disclosing any confidential information and trade secrets that belonged to the company. According to Judge Snyder’s ruling, Sing’s “performance at RK was marked by delays in completing assignments, late attendance and an unprofessional attitude.”
After being terminated, Sing retained materials that he had collected while working at RK, despite being specifically asked to return all trade secrets. Instead, Sing “packaged the trade secrets with sufficient supporting documentation and instructions so that other competitor companies would be able to use the trade secrets and reverse engineer RK’s products,” according to Judge Snyder’s ruling, which noted that Sing testified at trial that he “wanted to get back at Rogerson Kratos” for not appreciating his work as an employee.
Sing prepared packages that included schematics of RK products and prepared a “readme” document that explained the importance of the proprietary information and instructed competitors to reverse engineer the products. Using email addresses created under a false name and a public Wi-Fi connection at a Starbucks, Sing sent the stolen trade secrets in early 2013 to other companies that produced avionics, including a company outside of the United States. Sing also used physical flash drives to send the trade secrets to companies. Judge Snyder found that Sing illegally sent seven schematics to three different companies, and that he illegally possessed four of those schematics.
“Sing attempted to hurt his former employer by stealing its trade secrets, making the material easily understood by engineers at other companies, and using an assumed identity to send the propriety information in the hope it would be used to develop a product to compete with his former employer,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “If not for the ethical conduct of one competitor, Mr. Sing might have succeeded in delivering a crippling blow to the company that once employed him. The Department of Justice recognizes that intellectual property is a vital part of the economy of both Southern California as well as the nation.”
Judge Snyder acquitted Sing of one count of illegally possessing trade secrets from Precision Engine Controls Corporation, where Sing worked as a contract employee in 2010 and 2011. Judge Snyder wrote that there was no evidence that Sing had shared the trade secret information with third parties.
At a hearing on Jan. 4 in which Judge Snyder announced her tentative decision in the case – a ruling that was made final with the Jan. 5 written order – the court modified Sing’s $20,000 bond to impose conditions of home detention with electronic monitoring.
Judge Snyder is scheduled to sentence Sing on March 21, at which time the defendant will face a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison for each of the 32 counts on which he was found guilty.
The case against Sing was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.