Issue Date: October 12, 2009
Chemist Charged With Crime
Federal authorities have filed a one-count criminal complaint in federal court against fired DuPont researcher Hong Meng for improperly accessing a protected computer belonging to DuPont. If tried and convicted, Meng faces a maximum prison sentence of five years and a fine of up to $250,000, according to U.S. attorney David C. Weiss.
Meng, a 43-year-old chemist and conductive polymers expert, was arrested on Oct. 2. A federal judge in Delaware District Court freed him without bail but ordered him to establish a permanent residence in Delaware by Oct. 16, after which he will be subject to electronic monitoring. Meng’s lawyer, Joseph M. Bernstein, tells C&EN that Meng has just rented an apartment after staying with friends.
The complaint comes on top of a civil suit DuPont filed in August charging that Meng breached his employment contract and stole trade secrets pertaining to the design of next-generation organic light-emitting diodes for computer and television displays. He is accused of planning to share them with a new employer, Peking University (C&EN, Sept. 28, page 47). DuPont fired Meng on Aug. 21.
The federal complaint alleges that, among other things, Meng downloaded proprietary documents to an external storage device, a personal computer, and several personal e-mail accounts, even though the company prohibited him from doing so.
Normally, federal prosecutors must file an indictment 30 days after the initial complaint. However, the judge supervising the case approved a request by both the U.S. attorney and Meng’s lawyer to postpone the indictment until Jan. 5, 2010. According to white-collar criminal defense attorney Michael M. Mustokoff, delays of this sort can give parties involved time to work out a deal.
Mustokoff, who defended Gary Min, a DuPont researcher sentenced two years ago to 18 months in federal prison for theft of trade secrets (C&EN Online Latest News, Nov. 8, 2007), says Meng was probably charged with computer fraud because it is easier to prove than trade-secret theft. However, that doesn’t preclude federal authorities from expanding charges when an indictment comes, he adds.
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