A former Google engineer was arrested in California on Wednesday for stealing more than 500 files containing the company’s artificial intelligence trade secrets and using the information to benefit rival tech companies in China.

In an indictment that was unsealed in federal court in California, prosecutors accused Linwei Ding, a 38-year-old Chinese national who started working at Google in 2019, of uploading trade secrets from his Google-issued laptop to personal cloud storage accounts . The documents Ding stole included “building blocks” of Google’s AI infrastructure, according to the indictment. He uploaded them to his personal accounts over a period of one year from May 2022 to May 2023.

Ding was arrested in Newark, California, and charged with four counts of theft of trade secrets. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison and fined up to $250,000 for each count.

“We have strict safeguards in place to prevent the theft of our confidential commercial information and trade secrets,” Google spokesman Jose Castaneda told Engadget. “Upon investigation, we discovered that this employee had stolen multiple documents and quickly referred the case to law enforcement. We are grateful to the FBI for their help in protecting our information and will continue to work closely with them.

The development comes at a time of heightened tensions between the United States and China over the explosion of artificial intelligence. Last year, the Biden administration prohibited the export of advanced AI chips designed by American companies such as NVIDIA to China to stop the country from using AI to strengthen its military. “Today’s charges are the latest illustration of the lengths to which affiliates of companies based in the People’s Republic of China are willing to go to steal American innovation,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement. “The theft of innovative technologies and trade secrets from American companies can cost jobs and have devastating consequences for the economy and national security.”

The indictment reveals all sorts of details about the nature of the crime. Ding allegedly first copied information from Google files into Apple Notes on his laptop and then converted them into PDF files that he uploaded to his personal Google account to avoid detection by Google’s anti-theft systems. data loss. He also gave his Google badge to another Googler in California to make it appear that he was working from Google’s offices in the state, when he actually worked for rival companies in China. Prosecutors said Ding helped raise capital for one of the Chinese companies he worked with as its chief technology officer. Last year, he founded another AI company in China and served as its CEO.

This is not the first time the US has arrested a Chinese national for stealing trade secrets from US companies. Over the past few years, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Francisco has charged three former Apple employees with stealing trade secrets related to the Apple Car, a project the company recently canceled, and siphoning them off to companies in China. Last month, one of those engineers was sentenced to six months in prison and ordered to pay nearly $150,000 in fines.