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In this Feb 19, 2008 file photo, Dongfan “Greg” Chung, is shown leaving the U.S. District Court in Santa Ana, Calif., with an unidentified woman. The prosecution and defense presented opening statements Tuesday June 2, 2009 in the first economic espionage case to reach trial in the United States. Prosecutors laid out their case against Chung, 73, in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana, Calif. AP PHOTO/ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, CHRISTINA HOUSE

A Chinese-born engineer was convicted Thursday of stealing trade secrets critical to the U.S. space program in the nation’s first economic espionage trial.

A federal judge found former Boeing Co. engineer Dongfan “Greg” Chung guilty of six counts of economic espionage and other charges for taking 300,000 pages of sensitive documents that included information about the U.S. space shuttle and a booster rocket.

“Mr. Chung has been an agent of the People’s Republic of China for over 30 years,” U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney said while issuing his ruling.

Federal prosecutors accused the 73-year-old stress analyst of using his 30-year career at Boeing and Rockwell International to steal the documents. They said investigators found papers stacked throughout Chung’s house that included sensitive information about a fueling system for a booster rocket – documents that Boeing employees were ordered to lock away at the close of work each day. They said Boeing invested $50 million in the technology over a five-year period.

The judge convicted Chung of six counts of economic espionage, one count of acting as a foreign agent, one count of conspiracy, and one count of lying to federal agent. He was acquitted of obstruction of justice.

Chung opted for a non-jury trial that ended June 24. During the three-week trial, defense attorneys said Chung was a “pack rat” who hoarded documents at his house but insisted he was not a spy.

They said Chung may have violated Boeing policy by bringing the papers home, but he didn’t break any laws and the U.S. government couldn’t prove he had given any of the information to China.

Attorneys and prosecutors were not immediately available for comment after the verdict.

The Economic Espionage Act was passed in 1996 to help the government crack down on the theft of information from private companies that contract with the government to develop U.S. space and military technologies.

By CBSNEWSAPJuly 16, 2009, 1:18 PM

Find this story at 16 July 2009

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