A federal grand jury charged former Chemours employee 48-year-old Jerry Jindong Xu with conspiracy to steal trade secrets and sell them to Chinese investors.
The conspiracy involved sodium cyanide, a white, water-soluble chemical used in mining. Chemours performs the research and development for sodium cyanide at the Experimental Station in Wilmington. The DuPont Company spin-off is the world’s largest producer of sodium cyanide. Earlier this summer, Chemours broke ground on a $150 million sodium cyanide plant in Mexico.
According to the indictment, Xu’s main objective was either to help investors infringe on Chemours’ lucrative business by building a competing sodium cyanide plant or to become an import competitor in North America.
“We are committed to prosecuting anyone — be they rogue actors or foreign nations — who tries to line their pockets by jeopardizing the hard work our businesses perform every day,” said Acting U.S. Attorney David Weiss, District of Delaware.
The allegations claim Xu used his position at Chemours to access DuPont’s and Chemours’ proprietary and confidential information, like pricing information. He’s accused of contacting Chinese investors to solicit funding to build a sodium cyanide plant and secretly taking pictures of plant system diagrams while touring Chemours’ sodium cyanide plant. The indictment accuses Xu of copying and/or sending himself many Chemours’ confidential documents.
The indictment stated the defendant’s wrongdoing occurred between June 2015 to August 2017.
“The FBI investigation and this indictment reveal a broken a trust from a company employee who stole trade secrets in a structured, multi-faceted fashion,” said Special Agent-in-Charge Gordon Johnson, of the FBI Baltimore Division.
“This brazen conduct goes to the heart of intellectual property protection and our office will aggressively and diligently pursue anyone who breaks laws and threatens corporate innovation,” Weiss said.
Employed by DuPont, Xu moved from China to North America in 2011. He became a Chemours employee when the Delaware-based company separated its performance chemicals line from its other business in 2015. The marketing professional specialized in sales of sodium cyanide. He was fired in 2016.
An unnamed co-conspirator, who was also a longtime DuPont employee, allegedly helped Xu before leaving the company in 2014 to open a cyanide and mining consulting business. It’s unclear whether this unnamed individual will face any charges or how the feds were tipped off.
Xu is charged with conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets and faces maximum penalties of 10 years jail time and a $250,000 fine. He was arrested in New York in August and arraigned in Wilmington on Sept. 28.