GE Aviation tests an adaptive cycle engine for military aircraft use. CONTRIBUTED

Russian, Italian nationals charged with trying to steal from GE Aviation

The U.S. Department of Justice said Thursday it has charged a Russian national and an Italian national with conspiring and attempting to steal trade secrets from a GE Aviation subsidiary.

Alexander Yuryevich Korshunov, 57, and Maurizio Paolo Bianchi, 59, were charged by criminal complaint on Aug. 21, the department said in a release. Korshunov was arrested last Friday at Naples International Airport in Italy. The complaint was unsealed Thursday.

GE Aviation is a key Dayton and Ohio employer. With its largest engine order backlog in history, GE Aviation anchors much of its manufacturing in Ohio, with more than 9,000 Buckeye State jobs.

The company has 1,500 area employees working in four Dayton-area facilities — GE Dayton-Elan Unison in Beavercreek, GE Episcenter in Dayton, GE Tech Development in Butler Twp., and GE-Vandalia — sites which see a $1 billion annual investment, according to the company.

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According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, Korshunov was an employee of a Russian state-owned company and had previously been a Russian public official whose service included that nation’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Bianchi was a former director at an Italian subsidiary of GE Aviation.

While working for the subsidiary, Bianchi was responsible for business in China, Russia and Asia, the Justice Department said in its release.

After leaving the subsidiary, Bianchi went to work for a company called Aernova in Forli, Italy.

Korshunov was employed at United Engine Corp (UEC), which included a subsidiary named Aviadvigatel (a branch of the Russian state-owned company), which had been “entity listed” by the U.S. Department of Commerce in 2018 for acting contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States.

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Aernova and Aviadvigatel had a contract during the time of the alleged conduct.

It is alleged that between 2013 and 2018, Bianchi – on behalf of Korshunov – hired current or former employees of GE Aviation’s Italian subsidiary to do consulting work related to jet engine accessory gearboxes for Bianchi and Korshunov, according to the Justice Department.

The employees’ statements of work typically stated that the “the holders of patent and intellectual property obtained as a result of the work are…the Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation.”

Employees allegedly used trade secrets owned by GE Aviation to create a technical report. The department says the effort focused on accessory gearboxes made by Avio Aero, which are external engine components that provide power to systems such as hydraulic pumps, generators and fuel pumps.

The affidavit details that Korshunov arranged and paid for employees to meet with him in June 2013 at the Paris Air Show in Le-Bourget, France, and in 2014 in Milan, Italy, to discuss and revise the technical report.

Conspiring to and attempting to steal trade secrets is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.