SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – A former scientist with South San Francisco-based Genentech and her husband pleaded guilty to stealing company secrets and sharing them with competitors, federal authorities said.
Xanthe Lam, a former principal scientist with the biotech giant, along with her husband Allen Lam, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and other charges on Tuesday, according to Northern California acting U.S. Attorney Stephanie Hinds.
“This United States Attorney’s Office will always aggressively prosecute theft of corporate trade secrets to protect innovation, a crown jewel of our District,” Hinds said in a statement.
Court documents said starting in 2009 the couple worked as a team to steal confidential information from Genentech and passed on information to a number of scientists at competing companies.
In one instance, Xanthe Lam provided confidential information to JHL Biotech, a biopharmaceutical startup headquartered in Taiwan. According to prosecutors, the information was provided “to cut corners, reduce costs, solve problems, save time, and otherwise accelerate product development timelines.”
Along with pleading guilty to conspiracy, prosecutors said Xanthe Lam pleaded guilty to commit computer fraud and abuse, conspiracy to make false statements to a government agency and making false statements to a government agency.
Allen Lam also pleaded guilty to four counts of filing false tax returns and conspiracy to make false statements to a government agency.
The Lams’ guilty pleas come as federal prosecutors announced two former executives at JHL Biotech were being indicted in a conspiracy to steal trade secrets and wire fraud exceeding $101 million.
Prosecutors said a federal grand jury indicted former CEO Racho Jordanov and former COO Rose Lin, alleging they recruited the couple to steal Genentech secrets.
“According to the indictment, JHL Biotech was a nearly $1 billion Taiwanese unicorn built on a foundation of lies,” Hinds said in a separate statement on the indictments. “The indictment alleges defendants used confidential documents and trade secrets stolen from Genentech to build a competitor and enrich themselves.”
The executives face additional charges including international money laundering and conspiracy to obstruct justice.
Both Jordanov and Lin made initial court appearances on Wednesday and pleaded not guilty to all charges, prosecutors said.
Meanwhile, the Lams’ case is adjourned until November 9.