Nuclear missile tech thief nabbed: Engineer caught stealing trade secret

February 15, 2024
1 min read

TLDR: A former engineer in Southern California has been arrested for stealing trade secret technology designed to detect nuclear missile launches and track missiles. Chenguang Gong, a Chinese native who became a US citizen in 2011, allegedly transferred more than 3,600 files from a research and development company to his personal storage devices. The stolen files included blueprints for infrared sensors used in space-based systems, as well as sensors used in military aircraft. The victim company, along with the US government, has invested significantly in developing this technology over the past seven years. If the technology were obtained by competitors, it could be economically damaging to the company and a security threat to the US.

A former engineer at a Southern California company has been arrested on federal charges alleging he stole trade secret technologies developed for use by the United States government to detect nuclear missile launches and to track ballistic and hypersonic missiles, the Justice Department announced today. Chenguang Gong, 57, of San Jose, California, was arrested Tuesday morning. Gong, who is a native of China and became a United States citizen in 2011, is being held in custody until a detention hearing scheduled for later today. Gong is charged in a criminal complaint with theft of trade secrets.

According to court documents unsealed today, Gong transferred more than 3,600 files from a Los Angeles-area research and development company where he worked – identified in court documents as the victim company – to personal storage devices during his brief tenure with the company last year. The files Gong allegedly transferred include blueprints for sophisticated infrared sensors designed for use in space-based systems to detect nuclear missile launches and track ballistic and hypersonic missiles, as well as blueprints for sensors designed to enable U.S. military aircraft to detect incoming heat-seeking missiles and take countermeasures, including by jamming the missiles’ infrared tracking ability. Some of these files were later found on storage devices seized from Gong’s temporary residence in Thousand Oaks, according to the affidavit in support of the complaint.

Together with the United States government and others, the victim company “has invested tens of millions each year for more than seven years to develop the technology,” the affidavit states, and it “would be extremely damaging economically” to the victim company if the technology were obtained by its competitors and “dangerous to U.S. national security if obtained by international actors.”

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