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Judge finds Utah chemist did not give away secret information

Published April 29, 2013 6:52 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A case of alleged industrial espionage collapsed after a federal judge found information a former chemist for a Logan company sent to a brother-in-law who worked for a competing company was publicly available and did not constitute trade secrets.

U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups said, in a ruling last week related to sentencing, that the government had failed to show Prabhu Prasad Mohapatra shared any trade secrets or proprietary information about three compounds sold by Frontier Scientific Inc. (FSI).

Mohapatra entered a guilty plea in May 2012 to one count of unlawful access to a protected computer; prosecutors agreed as part of the deal to drop 25 other counts alleging theft of trade secrets and other crimes.

The court held sentencing hearings on that count in October, January and April and reviewed a 692-page appendix prosecutors submitted as part of a sentencing memorandum.

At a sentencing hearing on Monday, Waddoups gave Mohapatra credit for about three days served in custody, placed him on 30 days supervised release and ordered him to pay FSI $3,435 it spent to monitor his computer use after a co-worker alerted management about possibly suspicious behavior. Prosecutors had sought restitution of $227,986 in actual and intended losses due to Mohapatra's actions.

But Waddoups said that after finding Mohapatra had not shared any proprietary or secret information, he could not "logically find that FSI has suffered any loss from developing procedures that are known or are readily ascertainable to the public."

Waddoups said that witnesses had shown that some of the information was readily available online and even taught in college and some high school chemistry classes.

Nor did prosecutors prove the company had experienced any loss because of Mohapatra's behavior, the judge said, noting that FSI was selling more amounts of one compound — a commonly synthesized porphyrin primarily used in pharmaceutical research — than ever before.

The judge also said prosecutors failed to show Mohapatra intended to disclose company secrets or harm FSI, which the scientist repeatedly asserted immediately after being arrested in November 2011. He had redacted such details from at least one document he shared, the ruling states. But FSI had a reasonable expectation that company information would be kept confidential, the judge noted.

Mohapatra's family moved back to India after he was arrested, while he remained on bond here to face a potential trial. He was represented by Parker Douglas and Kathy Nester at the Utah Federal Public Defender's Office.

"Our client is just so relieved that this is behind him and is really looking forward to reuniting with his family," said Nester, federal public defender for the District of Utah.





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