A Chinese national who formerly worked for L-3 Communications was convicted Wednesday of illegally exporting sensitive U.S. military technology to China, the U.S. Justice Department announced.
A federal jury in New Jersey found Sixing "Steve" Liu, 49, guilty of nine charges, including possessing stolen trade secrets, violating export laws and lying to federal agents. He was acquitted on two additional counts of lying to federal agents.
Liu worked as an engineer for L-3's Space & Navigation unit in New Jersey from March 2009 until November 2010.
In 2010, in an effort to position himself for a new job in China, Liu stole thousands of computer files from the company, detailing the design of missiles, rockets and unmanned drones, prosecutors said. He made several presentations at Chinese universities and government-organized conferences about the technology without the permission of L-3.
Upon Liu's return to the United States from a trip to Shanghai on Nov. 29, 2010, customs agents found copies of the stolen material on a personal computer he had with him.
Some of the files contained technical data related to defense items that cannot be exported without a license, which Liu did not have, according to the Justice Department.
Liu's lawyer, James Tunick, said his client did not knowingly break the law and that he had attended the Chinese conferences for "educational purposes, not for any nefarious purpose." He said he would file an appeal.
After the jury's verdict, U.S. District Court Judge Stanley Chesler ordered Liu held until his sentencing date in January, citing the lack of an extradition treaty with China.
"We will not tolerate the exploitation of this country's opportunities through the theft of our secrets," Paul Fishman, the U.S. attorney for New Jersey, said in a statement.
In a statement, L-3 said it had "fully cooperated" with authorities.
"We continue to have comprehensive policies and protocols in place to ensure the highest levels of security is observed by all employees," the company said.
Liu faces up to 20 years and a $1 million fine on each export violation charge, the most serious crime he committed.