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Woman Jailed for Trying to Steal Trade Secrets from US Children's Hospital and Sell Them to China

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A 47-year-old Ohio woman was sentenced Monday for conspiracy to steal and sell trade secrets to China, the Justice Department announced.

Li Chen also attempted conspiracy of wire fraud and was sentenced to over two years in jail, according to the Justice Department’s news release.

The trade secrets were connected with medical research belonging to the Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Research Institute.

Chen and her 50-year-old husband, Yu Zhou, pleaded guilty in July 2020 for planning to steal research secrets through their work at medical research labs, where they were employed for over a decade, according to the news release.

“Chen and her husband executed a scheme over the course of several years to set up businesses in China, steal American research and profit from doing so,” said U.S. Attorney David M. DeVillers for the Southern District of Ohio.

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“Chen willingly took part in the Chinese government’s long-term efforts to steal American intellectual property. She deserves time in federal prison.”

“For far too long, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has encouraged the outright theft of American trade secrets through Chinese government programs that reward researchers for stealing what China cannot produce through its own ingenuity,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers for the National Security Division.

“Today’s conclusion of yet another successful prosecution for theft of trade secrets encouraged by the PRC Government serves as a warning to all who might seek to profit from China’s illicit efforts to achieve technological dominance through thievery.”

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“A hospital’s most important mission is to help people live longer and healthier lives. The defendant’s mission, however, was to steal trade secrets and create a company in China to make money off those stolen trade secrets,” said Assistant Director Alan E. Kohler Jr. of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division.

“The FBI will not stop its efforts to identify people who steal technology for their own financial benefit or for the benefit of a foreign government.”

“Chen’s sentencing today is a recognition of the seriousness of this offense,” said Special Agent in Charge Chris Hoffman of the FBI’s Cincinnati Division.

“This sentence should serve as a deterrent to anyone else committing similar acts that the FBI will work closely with our partners to ensure the United States remains a world leader in science and technology innovation.”

Chen applied for several of the Chinese government’s “talent plans,” according to the news release, which extend benefits to recipients in exchange for foreign trade secrets.

Chen must forfeit around $1.25 million and common stock shares from Avalon GloboCare Corp. and GenExosome Technologies Inc.. She must also pay $2.6 million in restitution.

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The Justice Department and Nationwide Children’s Hospital didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

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