Yesterday, in a nonjury trial, U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney convicted Dongfan “Greg” Chung, a 73-year-old Orange County, Calif., resident, on six counts of economic espionage for stealing trade secrets from Boeing.  

Chung, a former engineer at Boeing and previously for Rockwell International, was also found guilty of two non-economic charges, one count of acting as an agent of the People’s Republic of China and one count of lying to the FBI. He is the first person to be indicted and convicted under the Economic Espionage Act of 1996, which makes theft or misappropriations of trade secrets a federal crime.  

Agents from the FBI and NASA raided Chung’s home on September 11, 2006, where they found about 250,000 pages of Boeing and Rockwell materials, including trade secrets on communication upgrade plans for the shuttle, the “next generation booster rocket” Delta 4, and the C-17 Globemaster III airlifter, which is used to rapidly move troops and cargo to military bases.  According to the February 2008 indictment, Chung did not work on either the Delta 4 or C-17 projects while he was at Boeing and Rockwell, suggesting that he never should have had possession of those particular documents.

Chung’s actions date back to at least 1979, when Professor Chen Lung Ku from the Harbin Institute of Technology in China wrote a letter to Chung applauding his efforts in obtaining and reorganizing notes from the company that could be needed by the government. Chung used sea freight and undocumented trips to China as two means of sending information to the Chinese government.

After the verdict yesterday, Chung was immediately remanded into custody, where he will stay until his sentencing, scheduled to take place November 9, 2009.

Image of Delta 4 rocket by pastorbuhro via flickr