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Policy

Cases Advance Against Two Scientists Accused Of Trade Secret Theft

by Marc S. Reisch
May 21, 2012 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 90, ISSUE 21

A scientist accused of stealing trade secrets from her employer has been sentenced to jail, and a scientist in a separate case has agreed to plead guilty.

Former Sanofi scientist Yuan Li was sentenced to 18 months in prison. She pled guilty earlier this year in the U.S. District Court of New Jersey to one count of theft of trade secrets from the pharmaceutical maker. Li, who worked for Sanofi between 2006 and 2011, was also ordered to pay $131,000 in restitution.

Li admitted to stealing information about Sanofi compounds and then offering them for sale on the website of Abby PharmaTech, in which she had a financial interest. According to court documents, Abby PharmaTech is a unit of Xiamen KAK Science & Technology of Xiamen, China.

In a separate case, Prabhu Mohapatra reached an agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Utah to plead guilty to one count of unlawful access to a protected computer. He could receive a penalty of up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Last December, Mohapatra was indicted on multiple counts of trade secret theft and computer fraud.

Mohapatra, an organic chemist who had worked for fine chemicals maker Frontier Scientific for two years until November 2011, admitted that he sent the recipes for two compounds to a person in India without obtaining permission. Frontier contended that Mohapatra e-mailed the recipes to a would-be competitor.

Frontier CEO W. Tim Miller tells C&EN he won’t be satisfied unless Mohapatra receives a stiff sentence and is prevented from using any knowledge obtained from the firm. “We feel the company has been violated,” he says.

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