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Chinese Citizen Pleads Guilty to Stealing U.S. Software

Bo Zhang, a Chinese citizen who worked for a contractor at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, pleaded guilty to stealing U.S. Treasury Department software used to track federal collections and payments.

Zhang, who is also known as “Bryan Zhang,” pleaded guilty today to one count of theft of government property and one count of immigration fraud in a hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Dolinger in Manhattan federal court, the U.S. Attorney’s office said. He is scheduled for sentencing on Oct. 1.

Zhang, a computer programmer assigned to work on source code at the New York Fed, copied the software in July, the U.S. said in a criminal information dated May 16. Zhang also lied to immigration authorities in support of other peoples’ applications to obtain visas to work in the U.S., the government charged.

The software system stolen by Zhang relates to the “tracking of the billions of dollars that are electronically transferred every day in the U.S.’s general ledger,” prosecutors said.

Zhang is a Chinese citizen, a person with knowledge of the matter, who didn’t want to be identified because the information wasn’t public, said in January. He has been in the U.S. on a work visa since 2000, said another person familiar with the matter who also didn’t want to be identified because the information isn’t public. Zhang worked previously at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Bank of America Corp., the person said.

Sentencing Guidelines

In an April 12 plea agreement released today by prosecutors, the parties agreed that federal sentencing guidelines, which aren’t binding, call for Zhang to get from 12 to 18 months in prison plus a fine of $3,000 to $30,000. His guilty pleas make it “very likely” he’ll be deported, according to the plea agreement.

The Government-Wide Accounting and Reporting Program is a software system that provides federal agencies with an account statement, similar to a customer’s bank statement, of federal agencies’ account balances with the Treasury. It also covers appropriation and non-expenditure activity, payments, deposits and intra-governmental actions that affect the account balances within the Treasury.

FBI Questioning

In August, a colleague of Zhang’s told supervisors at the New York Fed that Zhang had claimed to have lost an external hard drive containing the GWA code, according to court filings.

After being questioned by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents in August, Zhang admitted he stole the proprietary software code belonging to the Treasury in July, according to the criminal complaint.

Zhang told FBI agents that he copied the code onto the hard drive of a computer in his office at the Federal Reserve and then copied it to an external hard drive. He later removed that drive from government offices without authorization and copied its contents onto a home computer and his personal laptop, the U.S. said.

Zhang told the FBI that he knew it was wrong to take the GWA source code, according to court filings.

“He asserted that he took it for private use and in order to ensure that it was available to him in the event that he lost his job” with the New York Fed, prosecutors said.

The case is U.S. v. Zhang, 12-mag-00108, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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