BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Two scientists have been arrested and charged with attempting to steal trade secrets from the Water Institute of the Gulf, a world-renowned water research institution in Baton Rouge.
According to the indictment filed in Louisiana’s Middle District Court, Ehab Meselhe and Kelin Hu both worked at the Water Institute and conspired to knowingly steal and duplicate information about the Basin Wide Model, which predicts how the Mississippi Delta could change over time.
Meselhe, a professor at Tulane who was once honored for his contribution to the state’s coastal and master plan, resigned from the Water Institute in October of 2018. The indictment indicates Hu was caught copying data and fired in January 2019.
Tulane hired both scientists to conduct similar research at their ByWater institution soon after their respective departures. Tulane says it will decide whether to fire the doctors after it conducts an internal review.
"The purpose of Meselhe and Hu's scheme was to steal and otherwise misappropriate a trade secret, that is, the Basin Wide Model, and use this trade secret for the economic benefit of Meselhe, Hu, and the other water research institute," the indictment reads.
The indictment alleges that Meselhe, while a professor at Tulane, instructed Hu to copy certain files from the water institute and send them to a private email.
“Make a full copy of the entire [project] folder to an external hard drive BEFORE you resign,” Meselhe wrote to Hu in an email, according to the indictment. “Include the code itself, the post processing scripts, and everything also.”
"Yes, I will do those," Hu responded, according to the indictment.
The indictment indicates the Basin Wide Model gave the Water Institute an advantage in securing work contracts. If another institute had a similar model, the Baton Rouge Water Institute could lose out on certain deals and bids.
Michael Magner, a New Orleans lawyer representing Meselhe, says his client “completely denies any wrongdoing.”
This matter was initiated by Baton Rouge Police Department and is being investigated by the Baton Rouge Resident Agency of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Brian Frazier.