A former Apple employee accused of stealing trade secrets plead not guilty in a California court on Monday. Xiaolang Zhang, who worked on Apple’s self-driving car initiative, is being prosecuted on one federal charge of Theft of Trade Secrets. His plea comes just over a week since his arrest.
According to the court filing, Zhang was a member of Apple’s self-driving car initiative, Project Titan. While there, the engineer worked on the Compute Team, which was responsible for designing and testing circuit boards. This work granted Zhang access to databases containing trade secrets and sensitively intellectual property.
In April, Zhang visited China while on paternity leave. When he returned to the United States, he resigned from Apple, indicating that he would be moving to China to take care of his ill mother. He told a supervisor he planned on working for Chinese electric car startup XMotors.
When Zhang was leaving Apple and returning company-issued iPhones and a laptop, the company noticed some unusual activity, which indicated Zhang might have downloaded information illegally. He later admitted to “air-dropping” content to his wife’s laptop.
On Saturday, July 7, Zhang was arrested at San Jose International Airport while attempting to board a flight to China.
If found guilty, Zhang could face ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The indictment against the former Apple engineer was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
Though initially represented by a public defender, Zhang has retained his own lawyer, Daniel Olmos.