The accused staffer, Chen Jizhong, was hired by Apple in June 2018 as a hardware developer engineer to work on the company's Titan Project for the development of autonomous vehicles, according to a criminal affidavit filed in federal court in San Jose, California, on January 22.
Investigations by Apple revealed that Chen had applied to two jobs outside the iPhone giant, including one with a Chinese self-driving vehicle company.
Apple hired Jizhong Chen last June to work on its self-driving auto project, which employs around 1,200 people.
Project Titan is an effort still at Apple, even if it did just lose over 200 employees. Inside his computer were more than 2,000 files containing confidential and proprietary Apple documents, including manuals, schematics, and diagrams.
Although Apple has attempted to keep its autonomous vehicle unit, Project Titan, under wraps, the department keeps ending up in the headlines. Apple deleted the photos, with Chen's permission, before returning the phone to him. Another from June 2018 depicts an assembly drawing of a wire harness for an autonomous vehicle.
He told investigators that he was saving the files to present as his work achievements. Chen told Apple he was planning to travel to China to visit his ill father.
According to CNET, if convicted, Chen faces a maximum prison sentence of ten years and a maximum fine of $250,000.
In July, another Apple employee was accused of stealing information about the iPhone maker's robocar project to be provided to a China-based competitor. He was arrested and charged, and has pleaded not guilty of stealing trade secrets.
When the engineer handed over his company-issued laptop and iPhones, Apple's security team discovered unusual download activity that included access to confidential files.