Apple, pled guilty to theft of trade secrets today, a charge that carries a maximum sentence of ten years in prison. The first time Apple hired Zhang was in December 2015 to work on Project Titan, which was creating the hardware and software for autonomous vehicles.
Zhang was allowed access to Apple’s private and secure internal databases while working as a member of the Compute Team, where he created and tested circuit boards for the analysis of sensor data. Zhang left Apple in April 2018 to join the Chinese firm XMotors, and soon after, Apple discovered that he had stolen hardware and key Apple Car development details.
In July 2018, the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation charged Zhang with theft of trade secrets, and he was arrested shortly after for attempting to leave the country. Zhang this week took a plea bargain, which is under seal with the U.S. government.
Along with up to 10 years in prison, Zhang could have to pay up to two million fifty thousand in fines. Sentencing is scheduled for November 14.