How a soft drink can landed a Michigan chemist in prison

Crime and Courts

FILE – Eastman Chemical in Kingsport, Tennessee. (WJHL photo)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A Michigan chemist is awaiting her sentence after being found guilty of conspiracy to commit economic espionage.

Xiaorong You aka Shannon You, 59, of Lansing, Michigan, planned to create a can-coating manufactory in China designed to benefit the Chinese Community Party and the Chinese government, as well as the Shandong Province and the city of Weihai.

You was also convicted of conspiracy to steal trade secrets, possession of stolen trade secrets, economic espionage, and wire fraud in U.S. District Court in Greeneville.

You was originally indicted in February 2019 for trade secret offenses and wire fraud.

You stole valuable trade secrets related to formulations for bisphenol-A-free (BPA-free) coatings for the inside of beverage cans according to court documents and evidence presented at trial. You was granted access to the trade secrets while working at the Coca-Cola company in Atlanta, and Eastman Chemical company in Kingsport.

The stolen trade secrets belonged to major chemical and coating companies including Akzo-Nobel, BASF, Dow Chemical, PPG, Toyochem, Sherwin Williams, and Eastman Chemical company, and cost nearly $120,000,000 to develop.

You stole the trade secrets for the purpose of establishing the manufacturer in China with a Chinese chemical company called the Weihai Jinhong Group.

From December 2012 through Aug. 31, 2017, You was employed as principal engineer for global research at Coca-Cola, which had agreements with numerous companies to conduct research and development, testing, analysis and review of various BPA-free technologies. Because of You’s extensive education and experience with BPA and BPA-free coating technologies, she was one of a limited number of Coca-Cola employees with access to BPA-free trade secrets belonging to Akzo-Nobel, BASF, Dow Chemical, PPG, Toyochem, and Sherwin Williams.

From approximately September 2017 through June 2018, You was employed as a packaging application development manager for Eastman Chemical company in Kingsport where she was one of a limited number of employees with access to trade secrets belonging to Eastman.

Sentencing has been set for Nov. 1 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee at Greeneville.

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