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Feds: Lake Geneva man stole business secrets, planned move to China

Sun-Times file photo

A Wisconsin man stole proprietary information from the northwest suburban company he worked for while planning to move to China to work for a rival firm, according to the feds.

Robert O’Rourke, 57, was charged with theft of trade secrets in a 13-count indictment returned Wednesday in U.S. District Court, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office. Each count carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

On Sept. 13, 2015, O’Rourke downloaded electronic data belonging to his employer, a Woodstock-based manufacturer of cast-iron products, prosecutors said. He had already accepted a new job with a rival firm in Jiangsu, China.

Two days later, he officially resigned from the Woodstock company where he had been employed since 1984 as a plant metallurgist, quality assurance manager and salesperson, prosecutors said. He had also helped the company develop international business in China, among other places.

In December 2013, he began discussions with a Chinese firm to take a similar job there, prosecutors said. After several months of negotiations, he accepted a vice president job at the Chinese company.

The Woodstock company and Chinese company are not named in the indictment.

The week after he resigned, O’Rourke packed up the information and went to O’Hare International Airport to board a flight to China, prosecutors said. Federal authorities seized the stolen electronic data and paper documents before he could depart.

O’Rourke, of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, is scheduled to be arraigned at 10:15 a.m. July 25 before U.S. District Judge Andrea Wood in Chicago.