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United States

Chinese-Canadian trespasser was ‘trying to steal secrets’ when US tech firm’s CEO discovered him in conference room

US prosecutors say Kevin Dong Liu had three laptops open when he was discovered in Massachusetts office by the boss of medical robotics firm Medrobotics

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 September, 2017, 6:25am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 September, 2017, 11:06pm

A dual citizen of China and Canada has been arrested and charged with trying to steal trade secrets from a Massachusetts-based manufacturer of robotic surgical products by trespassing at its headquarters.

Kevin Dong Liu, who authorities said claimed to be a patent lawyer with a Beijing-based law firm when he was questioned about what he was doing at Medrobotics Corp, was charged in a criminal complaint filed in Boston federal court on Thursday.

The 44-year-old man was charged with one count of attempting to steal trade secrets and one count of attempting to intentionally access a computer without authorisation.

A federal magistrate judge ordered Liu held without bail pending a hearing on Wednesday. Neither his lawyer nor Medrobotics responded to requests for comment.

The case comes amid heightened concern about Chinese theft of US trade secrets. US President Donald Trump earlier this month authorised an inquiry into China’s alleged theft of intellectual property.

Trump launches US probe into ‘unlawful’ China trade practices, raising spectre of trade war

Liu was arrested on Monday by police in Raynham, Massachusetts, after the chief executive of privately held Medrobotics discovered Liu in a company conference room as he was leaving for the night, according to charging documents.

The chief executive was not identified by name in court papers, but Medrobotics says its Chief Executive Officer is Samuel Straface.

Liu, who had three laptop computers open, claimed to be there to meet company officials, including the chief executive himself, when in fact no such meetings were planned, a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent said in an affidavit.

Liu showed him an online biography that stated that he led the intellectual property practice in medical device, biotech, and other hi-tech areas for a Beijing-based law firm, the affidavit said.

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He gave inconsistent answers when questioned by police about how he got into the building, which is secured 24 hours a day and requires a key card to gain entrance, court papers said.

He also told them he was from Montreal and produced a Chinese passport for identification, according to the affidavit.

“The police found Liu’s further conversation convoluted and vague,” it said.

The FBI later confiscated from Liu a collection of electronic equipment that the agent said could be used to acquire or store data belonging to Medrobotics.

Medrobotics’ chief executive told authorities that for 10 years, people from China have been trying to develop business relationships with the company, though it has no intention of doing business with Chinese firms, according to court papers.