ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The Niskayuna man who prosecutors say stole trade secrets from General Electric to benefit China was sentenced Tuesday. The judge gave former engineer Xiaoqing Zheng two years behind bars, but he will remain free during his appeal process.

Zheng faced the possibility of several years behind bars after a jury found him guilty of conspiracy to benefit China with GE’s intellectual property, transferring files to his business partner in China. It was revealed the pair had plans to advance their own business interests in two Chinese companies that manufacture parts for turbines, using proprietary information Zheng got while working for GE.

Zheng’s lawyer, Kevin Luibrand, said the judge’s sentence of just two years pending appeal, is as good as it was going to get.

“We’ll be pursuing appeal. It is a very vibrant appeal,” Luibrand told reporters outside of court.

Judge Mae D’Agostino deeply questioned federal prosecutors and Zheng’s lawyers before making her sentencing decision.

The defense at one point asserted Zheng’s goal was not to hurt GE, while the prosecution said the calculated loss of Zheng’s actions were upwards of $1.5 million.

Judge D’Agostino said the court believes there was a loss to GE, but can’t precisely compute it; the conspiracy didn’t come to full fruition. She said of the defendant, however, “I do not think he was intending to benefit GE.”

Zheng was joined in court by his wife, three children, and his pastor. When asked if he wanted to address the court, Zheng said in part, “I have more gratitude than any negative feeling.” He added that the ordeal has brought his family together, and he’s sorry for the pain he caused them.

Judge D’Agostino said her decision incorporated the seriousness of the crime with Zheng’s humility in court and lack of criminal history. She does not believe he will commit any other crimes. In addition to the sentence pending appeal, Zheng was ordered a $7500 fine.

Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen stated: “This is a case of textbook economic espionage. Zheng exploited his position of trust, betrayed his employer, and conspired with the government of China to steal innovative American technology.  The Justice Department will hold accountable those who threaten our national security by conniving to steal valuable trade secrets on behalf of a foreign power.” 

United States Attorney Carla B. Freedman stated: “Zheng sought to enrich himself, and benefit the People’s Republic of China, by stealing trade secrets developed and owned by his longtime employer, General Electric. We will continue to work with the FBI to hold criminals accountable when they seek to illegally exploit American ingenuity.”