Two engineers from China were sentenced to a year in prison Friday for stealing computer chip designs from their Silicon Valley employers and trying to smuggle the secrets to their homeland to launch a government-backed startup there.
Fei Ye, a U.S. citizen, and Ming Zhong, a permanent resident of the U.S., had pleaded guilty in 2006, becoming the first people convicted of the most serious crime under the Economic Espionage Act of 1996. They were accused of trying to benefit China with their stolen chip designs, though prosecutors did not allege that the Chinese government knew of their illegal activities.
Ye and Zhong could have gotten 30 years, but prosecutors asked for less because the men cooperated with investigators. Both engineers apologized in court Friday.