Thursday, March 19, 2009, 3/19/2009 11:20:00 AM

Former Employee of Harland Robertson Co. Indicted for Alleged Trade Secret Theft

By Todd

A former Brighton, Michigan man was indicted Thursday by a federal grand jury on charges of wire fraud, theft of trade secrets from a Livonia, Michigan company. He was also charged with making false statements to federal investigators.

Thomas McKinney, 38, of Spring, Texas, was arrested near Houston by federal agents, said U.S. Attorney Terrence Berg. The indictment charges that in 2005, McKinney, while employed by Harland Robertson Co. of Livonia, stole its trade secrets and intellectual property and went to work at a new company. McKinney stole blueprints and drawings for chucks which Harland

Robertson manufactured for sale to the automotive industry and similar companies, Berg said.

The chucks involved were devices that held a moving part for the purpose of performing a machining or manipulation operation against a stationary tool. The designs and data for the chucks were trade secrets. McKinney worked as a salesman at Harland Robertson, and had access to its trade secrets and intellectual property.

The indictment also charges McKinney with making false statements to the FBI.

“When a corporate insider steals critical trade secrets, he puts at risk the competitive advantage of the victim company,” Berg said. “Corporations cannot afford to lose trade secrets in today's global economy where competition is fierce.”

If convicted as charged, McKinney could receive a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment for the charge of wire fraud, 10 years imprisonment for the theft of trade secrets, and up to five years for the false statements charge. He could also be fined up to $250,000 and ordered to pay restitution.

An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. The case was investigated by the FBI. The prosecution is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher L. Varner.

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