DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The value of the patented seed allegedly stolen from U.S. seed corn companies likely exceeds $500 million, federal prosecutors said Thursday, higher than previous estimates.
The new estimate surfaced in a custody hearing Thursday for Mo Yun, a Chinese woman charged in Iowa as part of what prosecutors say was a conspiracy involving seven employees of a Chinese agriculture biotechnology company to steal trade secrets.
Additional information gathered as part of the investigation into theft of seed corn from fields in Iowa and Illinois revealed that some was among Pioneer's highest yielding and most successfully developed seed, FBI Special Agent Mark Betten testified at the hearing in federal court in Des Moines. Additional seed also is alleged to have been stolen from Monsanto.
Seed developers in the highly competitive industry spend years and millions of dollars on research developing improved corn genetics that increase production and toughen resistance to drought and insects. The government alleges in indictments that the group of Chinese nationals working for DBN and a subsidiary was shipping the seed to China to be replicated, eliminating the cost of research and development.
Betten said spreadsheets and digital data on computers and storage devices taken in December 2013 from Mo Hailong, a man arrested in Boca Raton, Florida, list product identification numbers of stolen seed. Of the six men originally indicted, only Mo Hailong is in custody. The government said the other five remain fugitives.
Mo Hailong, who is under house arrest in Des Moines, is the brother of Mo Yun. She was arrested July 1 in California while on vacation with her two young children for a Disneyland vacation. She was taken into custody at Los Angeles International Airport; her children flew home alone.
At Thursday's hearing, her attorney, Terry Bird, pushed for her release on bond with a GPS ankle bracelet. He asked Judge Robert Pratt to allow her to travel to California where her attorneys are located or to New York and Florida, where she has relatives. He also asked the judge to permit her to fly back to China in the custody of private security guards to see her children who "need their mother."
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