Greenback engineers charged with stealing trade secrets from Goodyear

WASHINGTON Two engineers for an East Tennessee company were arrested Friday and charged with conspiring to steal trade secrets from Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.

Clark Alan Roberts, 46, and Sean Edward Howley, 38, both engineers for Wyko Tire Technology Inc. in Greenback, Tenn., were arraigned Friday before a federal magistrate in Knoxville, Tenn., after being named in a 12-count indictment issued Tuesday.

According to the indictment, Wyko got a contract in 2007 with Chinese tire manufacturer Haohau South China Guilin Rubber Co. Ltd. to supply equipment to make large off-road tires.

The indictment charges that Roberts and Howley visited a Goodyear plant in Topeka, Kan., and while lying about the purpose of their visit, surreptitiously took cell phone photos of proprietary equipment used in making the large off-road tires.

Federal officials charged that the men e-mailed the photos to employees of a Wyko subsidiary located in England, who used them to complete a similar piece of machinery for the Chinese contract.

The were charged with conspiracy, theft of trade secrets, and wire fraud. Federal officials said each man could face a maximum of 150 years in prison and $2.75 million in fines if convicted of all charges.

Wyko executives did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Goodyear is based in Akron, Ohio.

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3/9/09