At 11 a.m. Friday, David Yen Lee of Arlington Heights was supposed to be in the air on a plane to China, authorities said.
Instead, he was sitting in a courtroom awaiting a hearing, wearing the never-flattering orange jumpsuit that signals one is a resident of the Metropolitan Correctional Center, the federal detention center in downtown Chicago.
Prosecutors say Lee, 52, a native of Taiwan, stole paint formulas from his Wheeling employer, Valspar, and was planning to carry them to China, where he had taken a job with a Valspar competitor. Valspar manufactures paints and other types of coatings.
Lee was Valspar's technical director of new product development, and had been to China at least four times in 2008 to work on projects with a Valspar subsidiary in China, Huarun Limited, prosecutors said.
During one of those trips, a co-worker told authorities, Lee seemed particularly interested in the company's research on a Chinese competitor, Nippon Paint, according to a criminal complaint signed by FBI Agent Eric Shiffman.