Anthony Levandowski, a former Google engineer faced criminal charges on Tuesday for allegedly stealing secrets from the technology giant’s self-driving car project before he went to work at Uber. According to federal prosecutors, if he gets convicted on the charges he will be given up to 10 years imprisonment and a penalty of $250,000 per violation.
In an announcement, US Attorney David Anderson said that there were 33 counts of theft and attempted theft of trade secrets. “All of us have the right to change jobs, none of us has the right to fill our pockets on the way out the door,” he said. “Theft is not innovation.”
The 39-year-old Levandowski was a founding member of the group that worked on Waynoad, a Google self-driving car project that is currently a unit at parent company Alphabet. He was a part of the project from 2009 and was the leader of the light-detecting and ranging (LiDAR) team when he resigned from Google.
According to the statement, he resigned in January 2016 without any prior notice. He left as he planned to start up his own business called Otto which was later obtained by Uber.
The case came to light after Waymo accused Uber of stealing trade secrets. Last year the case ended with a settlement between the two firms. In 2017, Levandowski was fired by Uber as the two sides decided to go to court on the civil trial.
Uber was accused by Waymo of conspiring with Levandowski and downloading files that included circuit board schematics, instructions for installing and testing LiDAR, and an internal tracking document.
A close source said that Uber agreed to a financial settlement giving the Alphabet unit a small stake in Uber. In a document, it has been revealed that Levandowski downloaded thousands of files before leaving Google including “critical engineering information” about the hardware.
The new CEO of Uber, after the settlement, said: “we do not believe that any trade secrets made their way from Waymo to Uber.”