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Cincinnati FBI Wants To Partner With Local Business To Stop Chinese Espionage

Ann Thompson
The FBI says when partnering with businesses and universities it will only investigate possible espionage and not go beyond the scope of that.

With over 1,000 possible Chinese espionage cases under investigation by the FBI, the bureau's Cincinnati division wants to be proactive. It is looking to partner with businesses and universities to prevent the stealing of trade secrets.

New Special Agent in Charge Chris Hoffman points to Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, where a Chinese couple was arrested last fall. The Justice Department alleges the researchers, who had worked at the hospital for 10 years, stole information and used it at a company they owned in China.

Hoffman says there's no mistake about it: The Chinese government is actively recruiting current and former employees of businesses and universities. He says they can walk out with information in a variety of ways.

"Just because someone doesn't put it on a thumb drive, doesn't give them the authority to go to China and write down everything they've got in their head, the research that was paid for by the company. It's unlawful," he says.

Hoffman points to GE Aviation as an example of a company that regularly partners with the FBI, as in this case in 2018 involving the Chinese and this one in 2019 involving Russian and Italian nationals.

Hoffman spoke about this issue and a variety of others during a media roundtable Feb 13 at the FBI's Kenwood office.

Ann Thompson has decades of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting.