Solar Technology Research Scientist Pleas Guilty to Wire Fraud

PHILADELPHIA—Tung Pham, 48, pled guilty on July 1, 2013, to seven counts of an indictment that charged him with wire fraud and theft of trade secrets. Mr. Pham pled guilty to the wire fraud charges and agreed that when calculating his Sentencing Guidelines, the court could consider the theft of trade secret charges. Mr. Pham entered his guilty plea before U.S. District Judge Anita Brody, who scheduled a sentencing hearing for November 6, 2013. Pham faces a maximum penalty of 140 years in prison.

Mr. Pham worked as a research scientist in the solar technology field. The wire fraud charges involved an attempt by Mr. Pham to escape a non-compete clause in his employment contract that prevented him from working for any competitor for a period of one year. Mr. Pham had signed an agreement with a start-up Chinese company to work in the same area as he was already working. The wire fraud charges involved his efforts to create a fake employment contract that he could show to his employer to get out of the non-compete agreement. The theft of trade secret charges involved his taking the product formulas for existing, successful solar technology products from his employers. At the time that the FBI executed a search warrant on Mr. Pham’s home and found the trade secrets, he was planning to leave a few days later for China to start working for his new employer.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael L. Levy.