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Ex-GE engineer Sernas admits conspiring to steal secrets at GE Schenectady

Ex-GE engineer Sernas admits conspiring to steal secrets at GE Schenectady

Man faces up to 10 years in prison, $250K fine
Ex-GE engineer Sernas admits conspiring to steal secrets at GE Schenectady
General Electric's Schenectady campus is shown in 2017.
Photographer: MARC SCHULTZ/DAILY GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER

SYRACUSE — A former General Electric engineer admitted Wednesday that he conspired to steal trade secrets while working at GE’s Schenectady facility.

Miguel Sernas, 40, of Mexico City, faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 when sentenced Sept. 16, plus up to three years of supervised release.

Sernas was indicted in October and extradited to the United States in January. He has been in custody since.

Jean Patrice Delia, 43, of Montreal, also a former engineer at GE’s Schenectady facility, is Sernas’ co-defendant in the case. Sernas admitted that he conspired with Delia to compete against GE with trade secrets, marketing data and other confidential information stolen from GE.

Delia is free on bail as the case against him proceeds.

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 TGPS website was not accessible Thursday. The company’s Facebook page and LinkedIn profile say: “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.”

The indictment filed Oct. 10, 2018, in federal court in Albany and unsealed March 22 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.

Asked for comment March 22, GE 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.”

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