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Former Google engineer charged with stealing autonomous vehicle trade secrets

Federal prosecutors claim Anthony Levandowski stole thousands of files before leaving Google

Photo (c) designer491 - Getty Images
Federal officials have filed an indictment against former Google and Uber executive Anthony Levandowski, accusing him of stealing confidential files when he departed Google’s Waymo to launch his own self-driving truck startup that was later bought by Uber. 

At a news conference on Tuesday, the Department of Justice announced more than 30 charges of theft and attempted theft of trade secrets against Levandowski. 

The indictment claims that the former Google employee knowingly stole 14,000 files containing “critical” information relating to Lidar technology used for self-driving vehicles and downloaded them onto his own laptop three years ago, just before leaving Google. 

"All of us have the right to change jobs, [but] none of us has the right to fill our pockets on the way out the door," U.S. Attorney David L. Anderson said in a written statement. "Theft is not innovation."

Facing prison time

Levandowski is facing up to 10 years of jail time on each count, as well as fines, CNBC reports.

A Waymo spokesperson said in a statement that the company has “always believed competition should be fueled by innovation, and we appreciate the work of the US Attorney's Office and the FBI on this case.” 

Following Tuesday’s arraignment, Pronto -- the autonomous vehicle company Levandowski previously led -- swiftly removed him from its information page and appointed a new CEO. 

“The criminal charges filed against Anthony relate exclusively to Lidar and do not in any way involve Pronto’s ground-breaking technology,” Pronto said in a statement. “Of course, we are fully supportive of Anthony and his family during this period.”

Levandowski, who has been deemed a flight risk, must wear an ankle monitor and provide notice to the court before leaving the region. His next court appearance is set for September 4. 

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