Reduced Sentence Sought for Trade Secrets Theft

[UPDATED] Lawyers for the man convicted of stealing trade secrets from DuPont and selling them to China have asked that he be sentenced to five years in prison, but no more than 10 years, rather than the 14 years recommended by U.S. probation officials.

A jury convicted Walter Liew in March in the first-ever federal conviction for economic espionage in the theft of DuPont Co.’s trade secrets for the formula for a white paint pigment of titanium dioxide, used in paper and plastics.  The government alleged Liew gained as much as $20 million in a conspiracy with a former DuPont employee for theft of the formula.

Federal prosecutors responded late Tuesday asked that Liew be sentenced to between 17 years and 22 years in prison, on a potential sentencing guidelines maximum range of 22-27 years.  The government also argued he should make restitution to DuPont of $20 million, the amount he was accused of transferring to shell companies he controlled in Singapore.

“Walter Liew has proven he is a fundamentally dishonest person,” wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney John Hemann, in asking for the sentence.  He discounted the probation office recommendation of a 14-year sentence.

Liew, who has already spent three years in prison awaiting trial, is a 56-year-old American citizen with no prior criminal convictions and a teenaged son, his lawyers argued in papers filed Tuesday.

The government’s calculation of a 22 year to 27 year sentence under the sentencing guidelines would be a “staggering sentence” and “tantamount to a life sentence, with unduly harsh consequences for Mr. Liew,” the defense argued.

Liew was convicted of possession of trade secrets, lying to the FBI, filing false tax returns and bankruptcy fraud.

The government argues that the trade secrets were worth tens of millions of dollars, to justify the “exorbitant sentence,” according to Stuart Gasner, Liew’s attorney.

“A sentence of fewer than ten years, and preferably closer to five years, would reflect a more accurate guidelines calculation,” he argued.

Liew’s three years of pretrial detention and a 5-10 year prison sentence “surely announces to the world the hazards of trade secret misappropriation,” Gasner wrote.

In addition, DuPond estimated a restitution claim of $28 million, but Gasner argued that the company is limited to restitution for “actual losses” and not more.

Liew is scheduled for sentencing June 24 by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White in Oakland.

Case:  U.S. v. Liew, No. CR11-573JSW


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