(CNN) -- A former Ford Motor Co. employee pled guilty on Wednesday to two counts of theft of trade secrets, handing them over to a Chinese competitor.
Federal prosecutors in a U.S. District Court in Detroit, Michigan, say Xiang Dong Yu -- a 49 year-old former product engineer at Ford -- used his company access to steal trade secrets.
Yu admitted to copying 4,000 internal company documents -- including sensitive Ford design plans -- prior to his departure from Ford, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's office for Michigan's Eastern District.
He then went to his new employer's office -- Beijing Automotive Co. -- in Shenzhen, China, bringing the stolen trade secrets with him, the statement said.
Yu returned to the United States in October 2009, it said, where he was arrested by FBI agents who searched his computer and discovered 41 Ford design specification documents.
Under a plea agreement, Yu faces at least five years in a U.S. prison and fines of up to $150,000, the statement said.
"We will vigilantly protect the intellectual property of our U.S. automakers, who invest millions of dollars and decades of time in research and development to compete in a global economy," U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade said in the statement. "Those who do not play by the rules will be brought to justice."
Yu's defense attorney David DuMouchel declined to comment.
Yu is currently in federal custody and will face sentencing early next year.