On October 21, 2019, federal prosecutors in Detroit charged Amin Hasanzadeh, a senior hardware engineer, with allegedly sending corporate trade secrets to his brother in Iran while working at a Michigan company which serves the auto and aerospace industries. According to prosecutors, Hasanzadeh was funneling sensitive technical data from his unnamed employer, “Victim Company A,” for more than a year.
Investigations revealed that even before Hasanzadeh was employed with Victim Company A, he began communicating with his brother about gaining potential employment. Then, within six days of employment, Hasanzadeh allegedly began covertly transferring confidential documents and data via a personal email address to his brother’s email account in Iran. The documents included hundreds of layouts, projects, schematics, notes, zip files, technical drawings, and other documents containing product performance specifications and proprietary information. These unauthorized transferred allegedly occurred on a regular basis and continued from January 2015 to June 2016.
According to company officials, some of the documents transferred were critical to the development of Victim Company A’s most important projects and were clearly marked confidential. The project involved research and development involving millions of dollars and the transfer of drawings and schematics to Hasanzadeh’s brother would have enabled him to replicate the designs. Per a senior company official, the projects underwent “months” of engineering development and testing before they were introduced to the market and were extremely valuable to the company.
According to federal prosecutors, Hasanzadeh’s brother worked at companies linked to Iran’s military programs, including one that contributes to Iran’s nuclear activities.
TIP: This case serves as a reminder that the U.S. government is committed to holding individuals criminally liable for stealing trade secrets. Companies should ensure that data security measures are in place to prevent theft from all levels of employees.