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Second former GE engineer admits conspiring to steal trade secrets

Second former GE engineer admits conspiring to steal trade secrets

Pair formed company to compete with General Electric
Second former GE engineer admits conspiring to steal trade secrets
The iconic GE sign in Schenectady is shown in December 2018.
Photographer: Peter Barber

ALBANY — One former GE engineer pleaded guilty to conspiring to steal trade secrets and another, who’d previously admitted the same charge, was ordered to pay $1.4 million in restitution Tuesday.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office announced the developments Tuesday afternoon. It said Jean Patrice Delia, 44, of Montreal, admitted that he and Miguel Sernas, 40, of Mexico City, had gone into business under the name ThermoGen Power Services to compete against General Electric worldwide using trade secrets Delia had stolen while employed at GE’s Schenectady campus. 

Delia faces up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and a term of supervised release of up to three years when he is sentenced April 10, 2020, by Senior United States District Judge Norman A. Mordue. 

Sernas, who pleaded guilty in May, was sentenced Tuesday to time served (approximately 12 months in jail) and ordered to pay $1.4 million in restitution.

Asked for comment, 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 case was investigated by the FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Wayne A. Myers.

The pair were indicted in October 2018. Sernas was extradited from Mexico to the United States, arraigned in January, and ordered jailed awaiting resolution of the case. Delia waived extradition from Canada, was arraigned in March, and was allowed to remain free on $50,000 bail.

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. 

The indictment included excerpts of emails the two defendants allegedly exchanged detailing their actions. The indictment also spelled out the allegations with details including:

  • 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 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 TGPS website, which was live when the indictments were announced early this year, is currently blank but says it is “coming soon.”

The company’s Linkedin and Facebook pages state that: “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.”

It adds: “We are not affiliated with any OEMs or construction companies so you can trust that we are looking out for your best interests.”

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