(NASDAQ: SUPVA) a world leading manufacturer of fiber optic and LED lighting announced that Samson Mong Wu was sentenced to ten days in jail New Year’s Eve pursuant to a three day evidentiary hearing in which Circuit Judge Jay Cohen found that Wu had committed indirect criminal contempt and fraud upon the Court. Wu was a key defendant in Super Vision’s civil action for misappropriation of trade secrets that was tried in September, 2002, in which Super Vision was awarded a $33.1 million jury verdict. Wu and other co-conspirators, including Optic Tech International Inc., Marsam Trading Company (both of Hong Kong, China and Miami, Florida), Thomas Wu, and Jack Caruso, had previously been found in civil contempt for violating a temporary injunction pending trial by improperly withholding Super Vision equipment overseas and improperly shipping certain evidence out of the United States to China via a “sham transaction.”
A press release from Super Vision indicates that the indirect criminal contempt charges stemmed from evidence that Wu had deliberately ignored court orders to return this property, and that he and other co-conspirators had committed perjury in discovery responses relating to the question of whether the Defendants were making sales of fiber optic products overseas. Super Vision’s private investigators uncovered that members of the Wu family were continuing to sell counterfeit Super Vision products in violation of the original injunction granted in November of 1999. There was also evidence the Defendants had shredded and destroyed evidence. In addition to ten days in jail, Wu was also ordered to pay in excess of $10,000 to the court to cover his legal fees.
Brett Kingstone, president and CEO of Super Vision, commented: “Although I am grateful to see some semblance of justice exacted on these criminals, I am still saddened to see that our laws were able to provide these individuals with shelter to continue their criminal acts overseas while simultaneously hiding behind the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution of the U.S. and having a lawyer appointed to them at taxpayer expense. These people wired millions of dollars overseas in their efforts to evade justice and have made a mockery of our judicial system. How can U.S. companies compete with foreign technology thieves who routinely steal our nation’s technology and jobs while operating overseas with relative impunity? Our laws need to change or U.S. manufacturing will continue to be decimated.”
At the civil trial in September of 2002, Bill Thomas of MBT Consulting, a forensic accountant testified that the defendants wired in excess of $28.5 million in suspect transfers out of the United States via “methods consistent with money laundering.” Documents were presented at trial showing that Jack Caruso, while still an employee of Super Vision, faxed stolen trade secret information from Super Vision’s own fax machine at approximately 5am, which was eventually filed by an Orlando patent law firm as a U.S. Patent on behalf of the Chinese Defendants. FBI Agent Kevin Hogan testified at the civil trial that in an FBI tape recording, Jack Caruso claimed to be paid in excess of $1.4 million by the Wu family for this information. The jury found the defendants liable on all counts of Super Vision’s claims, including fraud, misappropriation of trade secrets, civil theft, tortious interference with contractual relationships, and violations of Florida’s RICO Act.
According to a report by USA Today: “Foreign theft of U.S. trade secrets could pose greater long-term threat to the economy than the war on terrorism; companies lost an estimated $59 billion in 2001.” A report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Society of Industrial Security (ASIS) estimates that the annual intellectual property thefts from U.S. companies could result in losses of $250 billion a year. This would mean the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs to China and other Asian competitors that don’t play by the same set of rules as the U.S. manufacturers, let alone a level playing field. Larry Watson, an FBI expert on economic espionage, stated “If you look at the value of economic information, it’s more valuable than heroin and more valuable than gold.” The U.S. has passed the Economic Espionage Act of 1996 which provides for up to a ten year prison sentence for violators and most recently Congressman Ric Keller of Florida co-authored the Intellectual Property Protection Act of 2002 in response to this crises. However, according to Kingstone: “I am very grateful that Jerry Linscott and Leslie Bissinger of Baker and Hostetler offered their services as special prosecutor in this case when the Florida State Attorney declined to make this a priority. America is completely ignoring the war being waged against us by economic terrorists, if our laws continue to remain ignored and unenforced, dozens more of our vital manufacturing industries will be destroyed, which will evaporate the ranks of the American middle class.”