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Trade Secret/Economic Espionage Cases - U.S. v. Okamoto (N.D. Ohio)

Department of Justice


Trade Secret/Economic Espionage Cases

May 1, 2002

U.S. Department of Justice
United States Attorney
Northern District of Ohio
Emily M. Sweeney
William J. Edwards
First Assistant U.S. Attorney
(216) 622-3651

Scientist Pleads Guilty to Providing False Statements Regarding Trade Secret Theft from

Cleveland Clinic Foundation Emily M. Sweeney, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, today announced that Hiroaki Serizawa pleaded guilty to a one-count Information, charging him with making false statements to the government. Serizawa, age 40, resides in Kansas City, Kansas, and is employed by the Kansas University Medical Center (KUMC) in Kansas City, Kansas.

The Information charges that on September 2, 1999, Serizawa provided a materially false, fictitious and fraudulent statement in an interview of him by Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who were investigating the theft of the research and material from the Cleveland Clinic Foundation (CCF), in that Serizawa: falsely understated the number of vials of research material which Okamoto had taken from Serizawa’s laboratory at KUMC, by initially indicating that 10 or fewer vials had been taken, when, in fact, several hundred vials were taken out of Serizawa’s laboratory by Okamoto; initially denied any recent personal contact with Okamoto, when, in fact, Serizawa had been in recent telephone, electronic mail and personal contact with Okamoto; and initially denied any knowledge of Okamoto having accepted a research position with RIKEN, when, in fact, Serizawa knew that Okamoto had accepted a research position at RIKEN. The Indictment is still pending against defendant Okamoto, which charges him with Conspiracy, Economic Espionage Act offenses, and the Transporting of Stolen Property in Interstate and Foreign Commerce. Okamoto is alleged to have conspired to steal from the CCF certain genetic materials called Dioxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) and cell line reagents and constructs which were developed by researchers employed by CCF, and to have committed two counts of economic espionage by stealing the afore-mentioned trade secrets that were property of the CCF, and for altering and destroying the said trade secrets that were the property of CCF. The final count of the Indictment charges Okamoto with transporting, transmitting and transferring in interstate and foreign commerce, the reagents and constructs, knowing that such goods were stolen, converted and taken by fraudulent means.

The false statements offense carries a maximum penalty of five years incarceration and a $250,000 fine.

This case is being prosecuted by Robert E. Wallace, Senior Trial Attorney from the Internal Security Section, Criminal Division, U.S. Department of Justice, and Christian H. Stickan, Assistant United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in Cleveland, Ohio, Kansas City, Kansas, Boston, Massachusetts and New York, New York, with the assistance of the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Kansas. The Cleveland Clinic Foundation, as a victim of these offenses, has also provided invaluable cooperation since the inception of this investigation. The investigation is continuing.


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