A woman from China awaiting trial in Iowa on charges she conspired to steal trade secrets from U.S. seed corn companies is asking the government to release her on bond so she can travel to California and to her homeland.
Mo Yun, 42, is in Des Moines free on bond under very strict supervision awaiting a detention hearing scheduled for Thursday in federal court.
Mo is the wife of Shao Genhou, chairman of Beijing Dabeinong Technology Group Co., known as DNB Group. He is on Forbes magazine's list of world billionaires with a net worth estimated at $1.4 billion. He has not been implicated in the conspiracy.
Mo's arrest was the latest development in a case U.S. Attorney Nicholas Klinefeldt announced in December in which six employees of DBN or its subsidiaries were alleged to have stolen patented seed corn from fields in Iowa and Illinois and shipped it to China to try to reproduce its traits.
Court documents indicate the intellectual property loss to the companies, including Pioneer Hi-Bred and Monsanto, has been estimated at $15 million.
Mo Yun was added to the case in an indictment filed July 2, after Mo was arrested during a trip to Southern California with her children.
Mo's attorney, Terry Bird of Los Angeles, said Mo should be allowed to travel to China to be with her family for limited periods of time, and to travel to Los Angeles where her lawyers are based and where her children can more easily visit.
Federal prosecutors oppose allowing her to travel to China.
An indictment filed in December listed six men as part of the conspiracy, including Mo's brother, Mo Hailong, also known as Robert Mo. He is the only one of the original six to be in custody. The others remain fugitives, court documents said.
The updated indictment filed this month said federal agents heard some of the men discuss in January 2007 how Mo Yun was in charge of the operation and the hope was to gather 1,000 samples of corn hybrids. The court document said in 2008, Yun told her brother how happy the company was with the seeds being collected and explained how they were testing the seeds' DNA.
In court documents, Bird blasted the government for the way Yun was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport on July 1.
Bird said Mo, her 12-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter arrived in the U.S. on June 25 for a vacation to Disneyland. On July 1, as Mo and her children waited for the airplane to take them back to China, a customs agent arrested her and told her she either had to let her children fly alone or let them be taken into the custody of customs agents.
"She made the gut-wrenching decision to have them fly home without her, a decision made that much harder by the fact that her 5-year old daughter was clinging to her, crying inconsolably, and had to be pulled away to be put on the plane," Bird wrote.
Bird said the government's indictment against Mo "has got to be one of the thinnest reeds I've seen in over 40 years of practice."
Klinefeldt's spokesman, Kevin VanderSchel said he couldn't respond to Bird's comments on the strength of the government's case.
Bird said prosecutors heard she was in the U.S. and hastily drew up the criminal complaint. He alleges her arrest is the U.S. government's attempt to pressure her to give up information about the case.
"This is a squeeze play. That's what's really happening," Bird told U.S. District Judge Michael Wilner during a July 3 detention hearing in Los Angeles, according to the hearing transcript. "These allegations reflect the slimmest of connections and, in fact, do not reflect or reveal any criminal intent or act on their face."