Detroit— The FBI searched Ford Motor Co.’s world headquarters while investigating one of the automaker’s engineers and seized listening devices, computers and financial records, according to search warrants obtained by The News on Thursday.
A lawyer for the mechanical engineer said Ford’s security team feared she was stealing trade secrets by hiding secret recording devices in conference rooms at the Dearborn automaker’s headquarters, nicknamed the Glass House.Court records that would explain why the FBI had probable cause to search Ford and the engineer’s home are sealed in federal court. The government’s lawyer on the case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Tukel, heads the National Security Unit in Detroit, successfully prosecuted underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and specializes in cases involving espionage, counter-terrorism and terrorism financing, among others.
Searching a Fortune 500 company’s world headquarters instead of issuing a subpoena is a rare step and could indicate investigators were worried about someone destroying evidence, said Peter Henning, a law professor at Wayne State University and a former federal prosecutor.
“If it’s an economic espionage case or trade secrets case, that rarely involves one individual,” Henning said. “So the concern is if you send a subpoena and ask for recording devices, those things can be erased.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office and FBI declined comment Thursday.