ADRIAN, Mich.—A former engineer with Adrian-based Wacker Chemical Corp. has pleaded guilty in federal court to stealing his former employer's trade secrets and disclosing them to his new company, according to the Detroit office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Judge Patrick J. Duggan of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan accepted the plea agreement of Michael Kodzo Agodoa, 62, who admitted to providing his new employer, South Korean firm KCC Silicones, with Wacker's formulas for the production of silicone-based rubber materials.
Duggan sentenced Agodoa to 24 months in prison and a $7,500 fine, plus an extra $100 in assessments.
Wacker said in a statement that it highly values its intellectual property and technical competencies. "We will take the appropriate and necessary steps to vigorously defend it from being compromised, either through internal or external sources, and will do so in complete accordance with Wacker corporate policy within the letter and spirit of the law," the firm said. "We are pleased there has been a just and lawful conclusion to this case."
According to a criminal complaint filed in the Michigan court in April 2012, Agodoa, a native of Ghana, joined the former Stauffer Chemical Co. as a plant chemist in 1977. In 1987, Wacker purchased a controlling interest in Stauffer and changed the company's name.
Agodoa continued with Wacker until July 1997, rising to the position of technical manager and leaving to accept a job with Jamak Fabrications, the complaint said.
Between 1991 and 1996 alone, Agodoa signed some 78 formula and manufacturing instruction sheets that were clearly marked as confidential, according to the complaint. He was disciplined in 1994 for giving chemical samples to visitors to the Wacker plant—a willful violation of company policy and a potential violation of federal law, the complaint said.
By 2011, Agodoa was a senior scientist at Laur Silicone Inc. In June of that year, according to the complaint, he tendered his resignation, saying he had accepted a consulting job with KCC Silicones and also that he was helping a South Korean firm develop the oil reserves found at a town in Ghana.
However, in a routine system and password change after Agodoa's resignation, Laur discovered in a search of Agodoa's email records that he in fact had been selling Wacker's trade secrets to KCC Silicones.
Laur notified Wacker, and in December 2011 Wacker provided the FBI with the evidence, the complaint said.
Agodoa first provided KCC Silicones with Wacker formulas in early 2010 when he was negotiating for a job with the company, according to the FBI. Later, from March 2010 to April 2012, he used stolen Wacker formulas to assist KCC Silicones in the development of silicone products, the agency said.
Wacker officials could not be reached for comment.