Xiaoqing Zheng, 55, used “sophisticated means” to remove electronic files about the company's turbine technology from a GE manufacturing plant in upstate New York.
He was arrested by FBI agents on Wednesday at his home in Niskayuna, northwest of Albany. They also seized passports and electronic devices from his house, the AP reports.
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Zheng allegedly hid data files in a digital photograph of a sunset, and e-mailed it to himself, according to court documents.
General Electric began monitoring his computers after determining that he used a thumb drive to take 19,020 data files, and had 400 more encrypted on his work PC in 2014, the AP reports.
He appeared in court yesterday and was detained. He is scheduled to appear in court again today.
"The fact that Zheng accomplished this complex process so quickly and easily makes it highly probable that he had practiced these techniques and utilized them in the past," Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent M.D. McDonald wrote in a complaint seen by the AP.
Shares in GE are currently down 2.86% to US$13.24.