DOJ: Middleton office target of corporate espionage - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

DOJ: Middleton office target of corporate espionage


MIDDLETON (WKOW) -- Federal officials have indicted a Chinese company in Wisconsin for stealing software developed in Middleton. It's an elaborate international theft case and a U.S. attorney says the crime cost an American company hundreds of millions and left many of their Wisconsin employees without jobs.

"This really is attempted corporate murder," U.S. Attorney for Western Wisconsin John Vaudreuil says.

AMSC, formally known as American Superconductor, is based in Massachusetts. The company designs software for the wind turbine industry and has employees around the globe.

"You'd think, well this going to be in New York or someplace, but we do tech well here in Wisconsin," Vaudreuil says.

An AMSC spokeswoman tells 27 News their Middleton office developed a kind of software the Chinese company was looking to steal. She says the technology acts as sort of a control or brain function within the wind turbines.

Federal authorities say Chinese wind turbine maker Sinovel cultivated a mole within AMSC who accessed Middleton's software and downloaded it remotely from Austria before passing it on for Sinovel to use.

"If one were to go to the Middleton office, you would find a few people," Vaudreuil says about the empty desks that fill the rest of the office. The DOJ says the theft cost the company more than $800 million and about 500 of their employees.

"We can't get those people their jobs back but we can punish the actors. We can let other actors know, whether it's China or other places, that we're not to be trifled with," Vaudreuil explains.

AMSC also wants justice. In a statement, CEO Daniel McGahn says, "Together with the Department of Justice, we will continue to seek restitution for the damage caused by the theft of AMSC's software that was developed in the great state of Wisconsin."

Federal authorities indicted Sinovel, two Chinese nationals and the former AMSC employee Thursday. Vaudreuil says it may be difficult to bring the individuals to the United States without extradition treaties in place with the involved countries.

Vaudreuil says the fine in this case could be up to $1.6 billion per charge.

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