On December 13, 2010, Kevin Crow was sentenced to serve thirty-six (36) months in Federal prison, without parole, which prison term was to be followed by 3 years’ supervised release. Mr. Crow was also fined $10,000.00. What was Mr. Crow’s alleged crime? He had been charged with one-count of Theft of Trade Secrets in violation of Title 18 United States Code, Section 1832. Specifically, Mr. Crow allegedly had stolen trade secrets from a former employer and used this information to the benefit of his new employer.
The facts as alleged by the prosecution were as follows. Mr. Crow had been an engineer with Turbine Engines Components Technologies Corporation (TECT) for just under thirty years, (August 1979 until June of 2007) when he was laid off by the company. Of particular interest, Mr. Crow’s duties at TECT were alleged to include creating and modifying company policy for the identification and protection of TECT’s trade secrets. As is common practice in many “trade-secret heavy” firms, Mr. Crow executed a statement upon his termination that he had returned all documents containing any trade secrets TECT. The prosecution, however, alleged that despite this statement, he had in fact taken approximately 100 computer discs containing information identified as trade secret by the Company.
After his termination at TECT, Mr. Crow became employed at Precision Components International (PCI), a direct competitor of TECT. Both companies manufacture and sell various parts used in military aircraft engines. While employed by PCI, the prosecution alleged that Mr. Crow contacted several employees of TECT and requested copies of pricing documents containing TECT vendor and customer information, as well as copies of other documents that contained information Mr. Crow knew to be TECT trade secrets. Of possibly the most importance, Mr. Crow was alleged to have admitted to a TECT employee that he had taken information off of TECT computers including blueprints and cost and pricing information, a course of conduct he is also alleged to have admitted to the same employee could be considered industrial espionage.
As part of a plea, Mr. Crow stipulated that TECT had suffered losses not exceeding $14,000,000 as a result of his conduct. The United States Attorney was quoted as indicating that although the cost to TECT could be, and was, estimated in dollars, “…the potential harm to our military equipment readiness is still unknown.” The involvement of potential military secrets, specifically information used in the manufacture of military aircraft engines, likely contributed to the prosecution of what is, at surface, a matter of “corporate espionage,” but the application of the available criminal statute to an otherwise “garden variety” trade secrets case bears taking notice.
The matter was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in conjunction with agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the prosecution was conducted by Assistant United States Attorney Jennifer Kolman.