Ex-GE Schenectady engineer indicted in trade secret case

Founders of turbine calibration company face up to 10 years in prison
General Electric's Schenectady campus is shown in 2017.
General Electric's Schenectady campus is shown in 2017.

ALBANY — A former engineer at General Electric’s Schenectady campus is accused of conspiring with another former GE engineer to steal trade secrets from GE’s Schenectady facility.

Patrice Delia, 43, of Montreal, and Miguel Sernas, 40, of Mexico City, were indicted in October.

The indictment alleges that Delia, while employed in Schenectady at what was then known as GE Energy, stole thousands of electronic files belonging to GE, including proprietary tools GE had developed to calibrate its turbines in power plants around the world.

Delia and Sernas used the stolen materials to compete against GE while operating as ThermoGen Power Services, the indictment alleges.

The arrests were announced Friday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and FBI.

Sernas was arraigned in January and is in custody. Delia waived extradition from Canada and was released on $50,000 bond after his arraignment Friday.

The charge filed against Delia and Sernas — conspiracy to steal trade secrets — carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and a term of supervised release of up to three years.  

Asked for comment late Friday, General Electric said via email: “At GE, we aggressively protect and defend our Intellectual Property and have strict processes in place for identifying these issues and partnering with law enforcement. Strong IP protection is crucial to our ability to succeed over the long term.”

The indictment filed Oct. 10, 2018, in federal court in Albany and unsealed Friday states and alleges that:

  • Delia was employed from November 2001 to September 2009 as an engineer with the GE Energy Performance Testing Group, which created, developed and used tools to calibrate GE turbines and related components, thus improving the efficiency and profitability of the electric power plants in which they were installed.
  • As part of his job duties, Delia used these tools and other highly classified GE information to calibrate GE customers’ power plants around the world. 
  • On or about June 19, 2008, Delia co-founded ThermoGen Power Systems (TGPS) in Montreal with Sernas, who by then had left his GE job. From October 2009 to July 2011, Delia took a sabbatical from GE and developed a detailed business plan for TGPS. Delia returned to GE in July 2011, then resigned in July 2012.
  • Delia and Sernas did this for their own economic interests and the business interests of TGPS, to the detriment of GE.
  • Delia, shortly before resigning from GE, copied more than 8,500 GE documents and the tools to his own computer storage devices and then uploaded them to TGPS computers.
  • Upon departing GE, Delia falsely told GE he had returned all confidential information to GE and was not leaving GE to work for a competitor.
  • Delia and Sernas used the proprietary information Delia stole to prepare and submit competing bids to GE customers around the world, to the benefit of themselves and TGPS and the detriment of GE.
  • Delia and Sernas took steps to avoid GE learning of their activities.

The indictment includes excerpts of emails the two defendants allegedly exchanged detailing their actions.

If Delia and Sernas are convicted, prosecutors will seek forfeiture of any property involved in their actions and any monetary proceeds from it.

On its website, TGPS says:

“ThermoGen Power Services Inc. is a respected leader in the power plant industry, offering independent, unbiased power plant performance tests & optimization analysis. With a global team of experienced performance engineers, we provide flexible solutions and flawless execution to meet your specific requirements.”

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