Four Bay Area executives, including one from Palo Alto, have been charged in an alleged conspiracy to steal technology from a Bay Area semiconductor chip manufacturer, the U.S. Attorney’s office said in a statement on Thursday.
Donald Olgado, 54, of Palo Alto; Liang Chen, 52, of Saratoga; Wei-Yung Hsu, 57, of San Jose and Robert Ewald, 60, of Aptos, allegedly conspired to steal trade secrets from Applied Materials Inc. in Santa Clara and used them in a competing company based in the U.S. and China. The alleged conspiracy took place in September 2012 while they were still employed at the company.
Olgado was a managing director of engineering within the product business group; Chen was a corporate vice president and general manager in the alternative energy products division; Hsu was a vice president and general manager within the semiconductor LED division and Ewald was a director of the energy and environmental systems within the alternative energy products division, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The four men allegedly downloaded information related to technology for high-volume manufacturing of semiconductor wafers used in lighting and electronic devices such as flat-screen televisions and smartphones. The men allegedly downloaded trade secrets related to wafer production, which involves automated, computer-controlled processes that take place in a “clean room.”
The men allegedly downloaded the information from their employer’s confidential internal engineering database, including more than 16,000 drawings. They allegedly shared plans in email regarding using the technology in a startup that would operate in both countries and attempted to recruit investors, according to the indictment. The indictment does not indicate the value of the technology, but the U.S. Attorney’s Office said the company made millions of dollars in investment over years of research and testing.
Each man is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets and 11 counts of possessing stolen trade secrets. The defendants each face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each of the counts. They are scheduled for arraignment on Dec. 15 in federal court in San Jose. The charges are the result of an investigation by the FBI, according to the U.S. Attorney.