Ex-Google Engineer Gets 18 Months In Prison For Stealing Trade Secrets

Former Google engineer Anthony Levandowski was sentenced by a U.S. judge to eighteen months in prison for stealing trade secrets from Google’s self-driving car unit before he defected to Uber’s rival unit.

Levandowski admitted that from 2009 to 2016, he worked in Google’s self-driving car program, known then as Project Chauffer.

Despite knowing that his employment agreement required him to keep Google’s valuable non-public information confidential, Levandowski downloaded thousands of Project Chauffer files onto his personal laptop in 2016 while he was preparing to leave Google.

The files downloaded by Levandowski contained a variety of confidential details regarding the status of Project Chauffer. Levandowski admitted he downloaded the files with the intent to use it to benefit himself and Uber.

Levandowski left Google in January 2016 and launched Otto, a self-driving truck startup. Otto was acquired by Uber in August that year.

Uber later fired Levandowski after Google accused him of stealing trade secrets that resulted in Google’s Waymo filing a lawsuit against Uber and Levandowski.

However, the lawsuit was settled in February 2018. Levandowski was not party to that case.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup, who imposed the sentence, said Levandowski can begin serving the sentence after risks from the coronavirus pandemic have subsided. In sentencing Levandowski, Judge Alsup observed this was the biggest trade secret crime he has ever seen.

In addition to eighteen months in prison, Levandowski was ordered to pay a fine of $95,000 and also pay $756,499.22 in restitution to Google’s self-driving car unit, Waymo, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice. He was also sentenced to a 3-year period of supervised release.

Prosecutors, who described Levandowski’s overall conduct as “brazen and shocking”, were seeking a prison sentence of 27 months.

As part of a plea agreement, Levandowski, pleaded guilty to one of the 33 counts of trade secrets theft originally filed against him in 2019. Prosecutors agreed to dismiss the remaining 32 charges against Levandowski.

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