Oreo Espionage: 2 Convicted of Stealing, Selling Cookie's Secrets

Friday, 07 Mar 2014 05:59 PM

By Morgan Chilson

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Two men were found guilty of espionage this week after stealing and selling DuPont's secret process for making things whiter, including the middle of Oreo cookies, to a competitor in China.

Robert Maegerle, 78, and Walter Liew, 56, each face as much as 15 years in prison and hundreds of thousands in fines for their Oreo espionage, according to The Associated Press.

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Dupont Co. makes titanium dioxide, a chemical that provides whitening for numerous products and reaches $17 billion a year in sales, the AP said.

Court testimony during the trial found that China made it a priority to discover and duplicate DuPont’s manufacturing process. Maegerle was one of those scientists.

Liew and his wife Christina formed a California company in the 1990s to tap into that Chinese market, and began hiring former DuPont scientists in an effort to duplicate the formula. The investigation into their company began when an unhappy former employee of the Liews’ let DuPont know about what was happening in the Liews’ company, the AP.

Liew was taken immediately into custody after the guilty verdict because he has received millions of dollars from China that the FBI has not found, so he is considered a flight risk, AP said.

Liew’s lawyer said in a statement that he will appeal.

Tze Caho, a former DuPont scientist, previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit economic espionage, AP said. Another former DuPont employee, Tim Spitler, committed suicide.

Christina Liew has yet to go on trial.

Bloomberg reported that Liew was found guilty of 22 counts of economic espionage, trade secret theft, witness tampering and making false statements. He sold what he learned about DuPont’s processes to Pangang Group Co. in China, which produces titanium dioxide.

DuPont controls about 20 percent of the world titanium dioxide market.

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