From The Detroit News via MEMA Industry News
BELLEVILLE, MI — The FBI is investigating whether a Ford Motor Co. hourly employee stole expensive industrial computer programs and sold pirated copies worth more than $1 million on the online auction site eBay.
What’s unusual is that the pirated products, which can cost $1,000 a copy, typically are used only in manufacturing and factory management operations by large industrial corporations — not the sort of items individuals would seek to buy.
Court records made public Thursday show that FBI agents raided the Belleville home of James Thomas on Dec. 15, seizing computer equipment, manuals and software — mostly the products of Milwaukee-based Rockwell Automation Inc.
James M. Thomas works at Ford’s Wayne Assembly Plant and is assigned to the “paint/electrical crib,” the FBI said.
Rockwell spotted the programs for sale on eBay and began an investigation, according to a 21-page affidavit filed by FBI Special Agent Steve Benner.
Between August 2003 and March 2004, the company’s loss from sales of software on eBay totaled $1.04 million, the FBI said. When Rockwell alerted the FBI in September of the alleged fraud, it was losing up to $3 million a month from the sale of counterfeit software on eBay.
Rockwell Vice President John Miller said the company doesn’t know who sought to buy the pirated software.
“Most of our large manufacturing customers have respect for intellectual property rights,” he said.
Ford spokeswoman Marcy Evans declined to comment. No one has been charged in the investigation.
David Gorosh, a lawyer for James Thomas, said his client “maintains his innocence and plans to vigorously defend himself against any allegations.”
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