Prosecutors said a confidential source working with the FBI responded to the July 22 ad and arranged to meet the two men Sept. 1 at a Kansas City restaurant. With Qi acting as Huang's translator, prosecutors said, the parties agreed the source would be paid $100,000 for documents showing Pittsburgh Corning's processes and formula for Foamglas, a cellular glass insulation the Pennsylvania-based company sells mainly to energy companies.
The confidential source told Huang and Qi that he had to drive back to Pittsburgh Corning in Sedalia and break into the engineering department to steal documents and drawings. Huang and Qi met the source again on Sept. 2 with a bag of money and were shown documents purportedly containing the trade secret information. FBI agents arrested Huang and Qi that day.
Huang's plea agreement called for a maximum sentence of 18 months, but defense lawyer J.R. Hobbs argued for 11 months or less of supervised probation. Hobbes also said few prisons have staff members who speak Mandarin Chinese.
"It's almost a 'cruel and unusual punishment' type of situation," Hobbs said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Casey responded that deterrence demanded a substantial sentence.
"The United States understands that time in prison for Mr. Huang will be hard time," Casey said. "But difficult is not inappropriate."