A former Apple engineer charged with stealing self-driving car secrets from the technology giant has pleaded not guilty in federal court in California.
Zhang Xiaolang was arrested shortly before boarding a flight to China. Apple alleges that he downloaded proprietary files and was leaving the United States to work for Chinese automaker Xiaopeng Motors.
Zhang is currently working on securing $300,000 bail with property, his lawyer Daniel Olmos said. Federal public defender Tamara Crepet who briefly represented Zhang, said he makes too much money to be represented by her office, Bloomberg reports.
According to prosecutors, Zhang admitted to the FBI that he had downloaded sensitive files related to Apple’s driverless vehicle technology to his wife’s laptop and had continued access to them.
Zhang faces a single count of trade-secret theft and if convicted, could face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Xiaopeng Motors says it is cooperating with authorities and has found no evidence that Zhang provided it with sensitive information from Apple. The company also said it takes intellectual property rights seriously.
During his time at Apple, Zhang was a member of the company’s autonomous vehicle team and was tasked with designing and testing circuit boards that analyze sensor data. After informing Apple of his intention to leave the U.S. and start working in China, Apple examined Zhang’s activities at the company and discovered that he had run “extensive searches of secret databases.” What’s more, Apple claims that Zhang took circuit boards and a server from Apple’s campus while he was supposed to be on leave.