A former games company executive, who allegedly tried to steal trade secrets from his old bosses and flee to China, has been arrested and charged by the FBI.
The US Department of Justice (DoJ) claims Jing Zeng, formerly the director of global infrastructure at Machine Zone, stole confidential information from the games maker, and was set to board a China-bound flight. He was cuffed last week at San Francisco International Airport.
Zeng was charged Tuesday with felony theft of trade secrets, a crime carrying maximum penalties of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Based out of Palo Alto, California, Machine Zone's lone product to date is Game of War: Fire Age. The massively multiplayer online (MMO) strategy game boasts of millions of players worldwide using its Android and iOS apps – but it is perhaps best known for its borderline NSFW web adverts featuring busty supermodel Kate Upton.
Upton, 23, apparently was paid $1m for distracting teenagers' eyeballs.
According to the FBI affidavit [PDF], Zeng worked at Machine Zone from March of 2014 to July of this year, when a failed transfer attempt left him without a position in the company.
Toward the end of his tenure and after his termination, the FBI alleges, a disgruntled Zeng downloaded confidential information relating to Game of War's in-app payments system. Among that data was the Tableau database, a collection of strategic data on how players interacted with the game and where they spent money.
Though Zeng had wiped his company laptop, the FBI said he kept Machine Zone's confidential data on three USB drives that were not wiped and, allegedly, were being held by Zeng in hopes of getting a severance agreement signed with Machine Zone. He was arrested while preparing to board his flight and charged with theft of trade secrets.
The DoJ said the 42 year-old Zeng has been released on bail, but has been placed on electronic monitoring pending the criminal hearing. ®