Chinese national accused of stealing trade secrets from ConocoPhillips at Bartlesville

From the Tulsa World:

A judge on Thursday ordered a legal U.S. resident and Chinese national accused of stealing trade secrets from Phillips 66 to continue to be held without bail pending the filing of formal charges.

U.S. Magistrate Jodi Jayne found following a preliminary hearing held in Tulsa federal court that there was probable cause to believe Hongjin Tan had stolen trade secrets from his former Bartlesville employer.

The 35-year-old Bartlesville resident has been held in jail without bail since the FBI arrested him Dec. 20, on a theft of trade secrets criminal complaint.

Tan’s attorney, Ryan Ray, argued during the preliminary hearing that there was no evidence that Tan, a staff scientist at Phillips 66, took company secrets to economically benefit himself or others.

“That’s simply speculation at this point,” Ray said.

Jayne said the government must now bring formal charges against Tan.

A federal grand jury in the Northern District of Oklahoma typically issues indictments the first part of each month.

“We disagree with, but respect, the judge’s decision, which was based I think on the government’s own admission on a limited amount of the evidence,” Ray said afterwards. “It doesn’t answer the fundamental question of whether the government can prove every element of this case beyond a reasonable doubt.

“That can only be answered after all the evidence has been developed and considered. We expect when that is done it will give rise to a number of factual and legal issues that we intend to pursue to the fullest extent of the law.”

An arrest affidavit alleged Tan took restricted files containing battery-related technology that has earned Phillips 66 an estimated $1.4 billion to $1.8 billion in sales for an undisclosed product.

The company planned to market the product in China and in cellphone and lithium-based battery systems, according to the affidavit.

The company is one of two refineries in the world that manufacture the product, according to the affidavit.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel-Lyn McCormick said Tan went to a lot of effort to “cover up the fact” he was going to leave the U.S. to work for a competitor in China.

Tan allegedly told coworkers he was quitting Phillips so he could return to China to care for his elderly parents and that he didn’t have a job line up yet.

An FBI agent has testified that Tan’s mother was staying with her son when they raided his Bartlesville apartment.

Evidence presented during the preliminary hearing and in the arrest affidavit outlined how federal agents found a document on Tan’s laptop computer via a search warrant that purported to be a job offer from Phillips 66 competitor at a state-owned company in Xiamen, China.