Ex-Apple employee who stole Apple Car trade secrets sentenced to prison — Must pay a whopping $146,000 restitution

Apple Car concept
(Image credit: Vanarama)

Six years ago, a brave (or perhaps foolhardy) Apple employee left the company and took trade secrets with him straight to a competitor. Now, after pleading guilty in court, he has finally been sentenced, and he’s going to have to pay a massive fee.

As pointed out by 9to5mac, Xiolang Zhang, who originally stole “Project Titan” secrets has been sentenced to “120 days of imprisonment and 3 years supervised release”. He has also been ordered to pay a restitution of $146,984. Supervised release means that Zhang can get out of jail but will be supervised for the subsequent three years after release. 

Zhang joined Apple in 2015 and left them in 2018 in the middle of his parental leave. In that time, he had moved to China and joined a company called XMotors, who work with smart cars. 

Apple claims to have noticed suspicious behavior from Zhang prior to this happening which triggered a search of the Apple devices he had to give back upon leaving the company. He reportedly stole many files, including a 25-page report that has schematics for the circuit board of the Apple Car. This is obviously a very valuable file to Apple’s competitors. 

What is Project Titan? 

Project Titan is Apple’s car project that has been running since 2014. We currently don’t have a release date or any official information on the car yet but we do know it is currently in the works in some form, according to Bloomberg. Though he reported a release date between 2023 and 2025 back in 2018, industry analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has since claimed the ‘Apple Car seems to have lost all visibility at the moment”.

Kuo then clarified Apple Car is unlikely to see mass production in the next few years. We don’t yet know the reason for this as it could be related to production woes, a competitive market, or the Covid-19 pandemic but the Apple Car is probably still quite far away. By the time it launches, it could have quite different schematics to those stolen. 

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James Bentley

James is a staff writer and general Jack of all trades at iMore. With news, features, reviews, and guides under his belt, he has always liked Apple for its unique branding and distinctive style. Originally buying a Macbook for music and video production, he has since gone on to join the Apple ecosystem with as many devices as he can fit on his person. 

With a degree in Law and Media and being a little too young to move onto the next step of his law career, James started writing from his bedroom about games, movies, tech, and anything else he could think of. Within months, this turned into a fully-fledged career as a freelance journalist. Before joining iMore, he was a staff writer at Gfinity and saw himself published at sites like TechRadar, NME, and Eurogamer. 

As his extensive portfolio implies, James was predominantly a games journalist before joining iMore and brings with him a unique perspective on Apple itself. When not working, he is trying to catch up with the movies and albums of the year, as well as finally finishing the Yakuza series. If you like Midwest emo music or pretentious indie games that will make you cry, he’ll talk your ear off.