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US Charges 2 Chinese Engineers with Stealing Trade Secrets

FILE - The exterior of the U.S. Department of Justice headquarters building in Washington, July 14, 2009.

The Justice Department on Tuesday announced indictments against two Chinese nationals accused of working together to steal trade secrets from General Electric.

Xiaoqing Zheng pleaded not guilty Tuesday in U.S. federal court in Albany, New York.

Co-defendant Zhaoxi Zhang is believed to be in China.

Both are charged with economic espionage and stealing trade secrets. Zheng is also charged with lying to FBI investigators.

"The indictment alleges a textbook example of the Chinese government's strategy to rob American companies of their intellectual property and to replicate their products in Chinese factories, enabling Chinese companies to replace the American company first in the Chinese market and later worldwide," U.S. Assistant Attorney General John Demers said.

He said the United States will not stand by and watch the world's second-largest economy commit "state-sponsored theft."

Zheng was an engineer at General Electric's power and water plant in Schenectady, New York.

U.S. prosecutors allege he stole multiple electronic files describing designs and engineering of GE gas and steam turbines and emailed them to Zhang. The indictments accuse the pair of using the stolen information to profit from their business interests in two Chinese companies — Liaoning Tianyi Aviation Technology and Nanjing Tianyi Avi Tech.

Prosecutors say the two defendants knew their activities would benefit the Chinese government.

If convicted, Zheng and Zhang could spend 25 years in prison and be fined more than $5 million. Zheng could also face an additional five years and a $250,000 fine for allegedly lying to the FBI.