Home Milwaukee Press Releases 2013 Defendant Charged with Attempting to Damage a Protected Computer

Defendant Charged with Attempting to Damage a Protected Computer

U.S. Attorney’s Office April 11, 2013
  • Eastern District of Wisconsin (414) 297-1700

United States Attorney James L. Santelle announced that earlier today, Hua Jun Zhao, age 42, was arraigned in federal court on criminal charges that he: (1) had attempted to damage and had deleted information from a federally protected computer at the Medical College of Wisconsin; and (2) had lied to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in connection with an investigation into the alleged theft of an anti-cancer compound and related research data from the medical college.

According to court records, a federal grand jury returned the two-count indictment against Dr. Zhao on April 9, 2013. If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum term of 10 years’ imprisonment, a fine of up to $250,000, and a maximum of three years’ supervised release for the charge of attempting to damage a protected computer; and a maximum term of five years’ imprisonment, a fine of up to $250,000, and a maximum of three years’ supervised release for the charge of making a false statement.

Court records indicate that Dr. Zhao, a research scientist formerly employed by the medical college, previously had been charged in a criminal complaint with the theft of the anti-cancer compound, in violation of the Economic Espionage Act. The United States moved to dismiss that complaint without prejudice in light of the indictment returned by the grand jury. According to court records, the indictment relates to efforts by Dr. Zhao to obstruct the investigation into the theft of the compound by lying to the FBI and by covertly accessing the medical college’s computer server and attempting to delete proprietary information—including research data—related to the stolen compound.

United States Attorney Santelle explained: “The professional work being done by institutions like the Medical College of Wisconsin is vital to the present care and treatment and the future health and welfare of individuals in Wisconsin, throughout the United States, and across the globe. The United States Department of Justice, the Office of the United States Attorney, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in cooperation with our partners in the public and private sectors, are all committed to vigorously enforcing federal criminal law, to ensuring the safety of our community, to guarding against all threats to our economy, and to protecting our nation’s leadership in medical innovation and research.” United States Attorney Santelle added that the investigation into the ultimate disposition of the stolen compound and the ultimate intended use of the proprietary information stolen from the medical college and transported overseas is continuing.

“Proactive outreach through our Strategic Partnership Program was a key factor in this case—the arrest was a direct result of building awareness of insider threats with our public and private partners,” said Teresa L. Carlson, Special Agent in Charge. “The FBI will aggressively pursue those who damage or delete information on protected computer systems to further their own interests.”

The investigation in this matter is being conducted by the FBI, and the case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen A. Ingraham.

Indictments and criminal complaints are merely the formal method of charging an individual and do not constitute inference of his or her guilt. An individual is presumed innocent until such time, if ever, that the government establishes his or her guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

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