A federal grand jury in San Jose, California, has indicted Anthony Scott Levandowski on the charge of stealing trade secrets from Google, announced United States Attorney David L Anderson and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) special agent in charge John F Bennett.
The indictment was returned on August 15, 2019, and unsealed on August 26, 2019. The indictment alleges Levandowski, 39, of Marin County, was a Google engineer and one of the founding members of the group that worked on Google’s self-driving car project, later known as Waymo. Levandowski worked on the project from 2009 until he resigned from Google without notice on January 27, 2016.
“All of us have the right to change jobs,” said Anderson. “None of us has the right to fill our pockets on the way out the door. Theft is not innovation.”
At the time of his resignation, Levandowski was the lead of Google’s lidar engineering team. The indictment alleges that in the months before his departure, Levandowski downloaded from secure Google repositories numerous engineering, manufacturing and business files related to Google’s custom lidar and self-driving car technology. The files downloaded included circuit-board schematics, instructions for installing and testing lidar, and an internal tracking document.
The indictment also alleges that at the time he took the files, Levandowski was involved with two companies competing with Google in the self-driving space: Tyto LiDAR and 280 Systems, the latter of which would become Ottomotto. Ottomotto acquired Tyto in May 2016, shortly after Uber Technologies agreed to acquire Ottomotto and hire Levandowski.
The indictment charges Levandowski with 33 counts of theft and attempted theft of trade secrets. However, an indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum sentence of 10 years and a fine of US$250,000, plus restitution, for each violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1832.
The prosecution is being handled by the Office of the US Attorney, Northern District of California’s new Corporate Fraud Strike Force and is the result of an investigation by the FBI.