Houston energy company targeted in unique theft

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Tuesday, October 4, 2016
Theft of intellectual property targeting energy company
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Theft of intellectual property targeting energy company

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- The FBI is investigating the theft of intellectual property and other items stolen last year from a Fortune 500 company located in Houston's energy corridor. The thefts occurred during a burglary and an attempted burglary at the same company.

After reviewing surveillance video, investigators believe the same man is behind the thefts, which occurred in June and December 2015. Intellectual property was among the stolen items. The FBI is investigating, releasing surveillance video, and asking for the public's help in identifying the man depicted in the video. Crime Stoppers of Houston is offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the identification and arrest of the suspect.

FBI seeking man in corporate espionage case

On June 25, 2015, at about 3am, the burglar gained unauthorized access into the building through a defective door. After spending a couple of hours inside the facility, the man exited the building around 5am, with both company property and property belonging to its employees, including a backpack.

On December 30, 2015, at approximately 3:25 a.m., the same man attempted to enter the same Fortune 500 company. This time, the man was unable to get into the secure area of the building. Instead, he stole a security radio from a desk in the lobby on his way out. Investigators are interested in learning more about the suspect and his motive in targeting the company and the particular items stolen. The company has asked not to be named for security reasons.

"It's still under investigation as to what was stolen," said the FBI's Shauna Dunlap. "What was in that shoulder bag and inside the backpack. We know for certain some of the items that were taken. If the items taken were provided to a competitor, a competing company, or he's working on behalf of a foreign adversary, then the situation is much more serious and we can be looking at a federal violation of law, which could be theft of trade secrets or even espionage."

The suspect was described as a white male, about 35 - 45 years old, 5'9" - 5'10" tall with a medium build, and dark hair. During the June 2015 theft, the suspect had facial stubble and a thin goatee. He wore a light-colored long-sleeved collared shirt, tie, khaki pants, dark green baseball cap, and black athletic shoes with orange markings. During the December 2015 theft, the suspect was clean shaven and wore a light grey long-sleeved collared shirt, khaki pants, tan baseball cap, and black athletic shoes. During both incidents, the man had a noticeable tick - or upper body twitching of his head, neck, shoulders and arms. The surveillance video can be viewed in the video player above.

"We're seeing an increase of suspicious activity reports, threats of potential espionage that is happening in our area," said Dunlap. "Not only the oil and gas sector, but energy sector, and academia. Of course in Houston we're loaded."

If you have information about this individual and these thefts, you're asked to call the Crime Stoppers tip line at 713-222-TIPS (8477). Text TIP610 plus your tip to CRIMES (274637) or visit www.crime-stoppers.org. Tips may also be submitted to Crime Stoppers through the Crime Stoppers of Houston app which can be downloaded at the app store for both iPhone and android devices. All tipsters remain anonymous.

While the motives in this case are still under investigation, the FBI estimates billions of dollars are lost to foreign competitors each year due to targeted thefts and espionage.