Ex-Cargill Scientist Admits to Being a Chinese Spy

A former Cargill biotechnologist reportedly pleaded guilty to stealing proprietary information from the company and passing it back to competitors in China.

Ex-Cargill employee, Kexue Huang, has pleaded guilty to stealing secret information from the Wayzata-based company and from another former employer, Indianapolis-based Dow AgroSciences, according to a Pioneer Press report. In both cases, Huang allegedly passed those secrets to potential competitors in China.

According to the Pioneer Press, Huang admitted in his plea agreement that he joined Cargill in 2008 after he learned that the company was creating a new food product. In 2009, Huang reportedly copied the DNA sequence of an enzyme associated with the food product on a flash drive, in violation of Cargill policy. Six months later, he sent the sequence in an e-mail to a university student researcher in China.

The estimated economic loss to Cargill totals about $7 million, Tim Horty, a spokesman for the U.S. Justice Department, told the St. Paul newspaper.

Huang's illegal activities reportedly went on much longer at Dow. Between 2007 and 2010, Huang was involved in at least five instances of taking property and a dozen thefts of trade secrets, the Pioneer Press reported.

Huang was reportedly indicted for the Cargill theft on November 16, 2010 following an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department. He hasn't yet been sentenced but reportedly faces a maximum prison term of 10 years.

To read more about the investigation and Cargill's reactions in the Pioneer Press, click here.