PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- A scientist working on solar cell technology has pleaded guilty to several counts in an indictment that charges he stole trade secrets from his employer and tried to take them to a competitor in China.
Tung Pham, 48, pleaded guilty in federal court in Philadelphia to seven counts of wire fraud, prosecutors said Tuesday.
Pham was a research scientist for a company that makes pastes used in the manufacture of solar cells. An indictment said Pham stole product formulas from his former employer, then, when he announced his resignation in April 2011, provided a phony employment contract and lied about what he'd be doing at his new firm to escape a non-compete clause in his contract.
A judge ordered Pham to surrender his passport a few days before he was to leave for China to begin work for his new employer, which had given him a $30,000 advance on his salary.
The government said Pham also took documents from a second company that he left in 2008. Prosecutors estimate the total loss from the theft of trade secrets at nearly $22.7 million.
Pham faces a maximum of 140 years in prison when he is sentenced Nov. 6.