Anthony Levandowski, a former Google engineer and Uber executive, was sentenced to 18 months in prison on Tuesday, Aug.4, after pleading guilty to stealing patented technology of self-driving cars from Google, a company he had previously worked for according to the United States Department of Justice.
Levandowski pleaded guilty to the theft of trade secrets. In his statement, he admitted that he had stolen more than 20 files from Google. As a result, he was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
The engineer joined Google in 2009 where he was doing research on a project to design self-driving robotic cars, known as Project Chauffer. He finally left the company in 2016 to start his own truck company, called Otto, which was eventually bought by Uber for $680 million.
Levandowski, in his statements, admitted that during the time he worked at Google he knew that his employment agreement required confidentiality because of the valuable information he had access to. However, before leaving the company, he reportedly transferred more than 14,000 Google files, including development schedules and product designs, to his personal laptop computer.
Among the files downloaded between October 2015 and January 2016 was an internal tracking document titled Chauffeur TL Weekly Updates: Q4 2015. Levandowski admitted that he downloaded the file with the intention of using it for his own benefit. He also acknowledged that the document qualified as a trade secret.
A federal grand jury indicted Levandowski on Aug. 15, 2019, charging him with 33 counts of theft and attempted theft of trade secrets, which would amount to a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of at least $250,000. But Levandowski pleaded guilty to one of the 33 charges, and that was enough for prosecutors to agree to dismiss the remaining 32 charges against him.
The final sentence was handed down by the Honorable William H. Alsup, U.S. district judge. It provided for 18 months in prison, a fine of $95,000 and ordered him to pay $756,499 in restitution to Waymo LLC, as the Google self-driving program is now known.
U.S. Attorney David Anderson called the robbery a “brazen and shocking” act that appeared to be driven by both the defendant’s ego and greed. “Levandowski’s actions suggest that he wanted to be seen as the singular inventor of the driverless car, in the same way that Alexander Graham Bell is credited with inventing the telephone,” Anderson wrote according to AP News.