KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (Dec. 13, 2010) — Two former engineers with Wyko Tire Technology Inc. have been convicted in Knoxville federal district court on 10 felony counts of stealing trade secrets from Goodyear and committing wire fraud.
According to the evidence presented in court, Wyco secured a $1.2 million contract in 2007 with Haohua South China Guilin Rubber Co. Ltd. (HHSC) to supply equipment for manufacturing OTR tires, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) said in a press release.
On May 30 and 31, 2007, then-Wyco engineers Clark Alan Roberts, 47, and Sean Edward Howley, 39, visited the Goodyear tire plant in Topeka, Kan., ostensibly to service Wyko equipment at the facility, the DOJ said. What they also did was use a cell phone camera on May 31 to take seven photos of a piece of Goodyear tire-building equipment known as a “swab-down” machine without Goodyear's knowledge or authorization, according to the agency.
Then, DOJ said, they e-mailed the photos to a Wyko subsidiary in Dudley, England, so it could finish manufacturing a swab-down device similar to Goodyear's for an HHSC contract.
After a one-week trial, a jury found Roberts and Howley guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit trade secret theft; one count of trade secret theft; one count of unlawful photographing of trade secrets; three counts of transmittal of trade secrets; one count of possession of trade secrets; two counts of wire fraud; and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, according to the DOJ.
They face a maximum of 10 years in prison on each trade secret count, 20 years in prison on each wire fraud count and a $2.5 million fine. The scheduled date for sentencing is April 14, 2011.
U.S. Attorney William C. Killian for the Eastern District of Tennessee said in the DOJ statement that the ruling in the case “will send a message that complicated trade secret violations will be aggressively investigated and prosecuted by U.S. Attorney's Offices and the department.”
Akron-based Goodyear, in a statement, said it was pleased with the verdict and that it appreciated the support of the various government agencies that helped with the investigation and trial.
The company added that it is prepared to take all necessary actions to protect its innovative technology and intellectual property.