Anthony Scott Levandowski pleaded guilty and was sentenced today to 18 months in prison for trade secret theft related to Google’s self-driving car program, announced United States Attorney David L. Anderson and John F. Bennett, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Levandowski was also ordered to pay a $95,000 fine and $756,499.22 in restitution.
As part of a plea agreement, Levandowski, 40, of Marin County, pleaded guilty to one of the 33 counts of trade secrets theft originally filed against him in 2019. In pleading guilty, Levandowski admitted that from 2009 to 2016 he worked in Google’s self-driving car program, known then as Project Chauffeur. Levandowski admitted that during this time, he was aware his employment agreement required him to keep Google’s valuable non-public information confidential. He also admitted knowing that the non-public information related to Project Chauffeur was sensitive and subject to the confidentiality requirement. Nevertheless, Levandowski admitted that in 2016, as he was preparing to leave Google, he downloaded thousands of Project Chauffeur files to his Google-issued laptop. He then transferred the files to his personal laptop. He also admitteddownloading a variety of files from a corporate Google Drive repository. Among these files was an internal tracking document entitled “Chauffeur TL weekly updates – Q4 2015.” The update contained a variety of confidential details regarding the status of Project Chauffeur. Levandowski admitted he downloaded this file with the intent to use it to benefit himself and Uber Technologies, Inc. As part of his plea agreement, Levandowski admitted that the stolen document was Google’s trade secret, and that a reasonable estimate of the loss attributable to his theft was up to $1,500,000.
As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors agreed to dismiss the remaining 32 charges against Levandowski. However, prosecutors presented evidence to the court of Levandowski’s broader course of conduct, including downloading approximately 14,000 files from an internal, password-protected Google server, describing Levandowski’s overall conduct as “brazen and shocking.” In papers, they argued Levandowski “did the exact thing that Congress criminalized: he took a trade secret on his way out the door.”
The sentence was handed down by the Honorable William Alsup, U.S. District Judge. In sentencing Levandowski, Judge Alsup observed “this is the biggest trade secret crime I have ever seen. This was not small. This was massive in scale.” Judge Alsup also sentenced Levandowski to a fine of $95,000 and ordered him to pay $756,499.22 in restitution to Waymo LLC, as Google’s self-driving program is now known. Levandowski was also sentenced to a 3-year period of supervised release with a special condition that he regularly give speeches called “Why I Went to Federal Prison.” The defendant will begin serving the sentence on a date to be assigned in the future, when risks from the COVID-19 have subsided.
The prosecution is being handled by the Office of the U.S. Attorney, Northern District of California’s Corporate Fraud Strike Force and is the result of an investigation by the FBI.