A federal jury Thursday convicted a Chinese scientist of conspiring to steal rice seeds from a Kansas biopharmaceutical research facility.
Weiqiang Zhang, 50, a Chinese citizen living in Manhattan, Kansas, was convicted on one count of conspiracy to steal trade secrets, one count of conspiracy to commit interstate transportation of stolen property, and one count of interstate transportation of stolen property.
Zhang worked as a rice breeder for Ventria Bioscience in Junction City, Kansas. The company develops genetically programmed rice used in the therapeutic and medical fields.
Zhang holds a master’s degree in agriculture from Shengyang Agricultural University in China and a doctorate degree from Louisiana State University.
He stole hundreds of rice seeds produced by Ventria and stored them at his house in Manhattan.
Ventria used locked doors with magnetic card readers to restrict access to the temperature-controlled environment where the seeds were stored and processed.
In the summer of 2013, a delegation from a crop research institute in China visited Zhang at his home in Manhattan. Zhang took the visitors on tours of facilities in Iowa, Missouri, and Ohio.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers found seeds belonging to Ventria in the luggage of Zhang’s visitors as they prepared to leave the United States for China.
Zhang faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000.