WILMINGTON, Del (Reuters) – In a case US officials say is the first of its kind, a Chinese businessman pleaded guilty yesterday to selling stolen American software used in defense, space technology and engineering – programs prosecutors said held a retail value of more than $100 million.
The sophisticated software was stolen from an estimated 200 American manufacturers and sold to 325 black market buyers in 61 countries from 2008 to 2011, prosecutors said in court filings. US buyers in 28 states included a NASA engineer and the chief scientist for a defence and law-enforcement contractor, prosecutors said.
Corporate victims in the case included Microsoft, Oracle, Rockwell Automation, Agilent Technolgoies, Siemens, Delcam, Altera Corp and SAP, a government spokesman said.
US officials and the Chinese man’s lawyer, Mingli Chen, said the case was the first in which a businessman involved in pirating industrial software was lured from China by undercover agents and arrested.
The businessman, Xiang Li, of Chengdu, China, was arrested in June 2011, during an undercover sting by US Department of Homeland Security agents on the Pacific island of Saipan, an American territory near Guam.
Video from the undercover meeting in Saipan, filed as evidence in court, is expected to be made public during a press conference Tuesday by John Morton, director of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Charles M. Oberly III, the US Attorney for Delaware.
Li, 36, originally charged in a 46-count indictment, pleaded guilty late yesterday to single counts of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright violations and wire fraud.
“I want to tell the court that what I did was wrong and illegal and I want to say I’m sorry,” Li told US District Judge Leonard P. Stark during a 90-minute hearing in federal court. The Chinese citizen spoke through a translator.