MILWAUKEE - It's like a script from a spy movie, but this story of stolen secrets is very real.
Federal investigators are looking into a 42-year-old man who worked as a researcher at the Medical College of Wisconsin for nearly two years.
Hua Jun Zhao is a cancer researcher with years of experience under his belt, and prosecutors are accusing him of stealing another doctor's work and trying to benefit by bringing it back to China.
The compound is called c-25, and is being studied "to see if it can assist cancer drugs in killing cancer cells and not damaging ‘normal cells.’"
Security cameras spotted Hua Jun Zhao entering a doctor's office, where pill bottles soon went missing. The FBI found research paperwork on hard drives, an application for a grant to a university in China, and a receipt for a package sent to his wife around the time the medicine disappeared.
On a research website, the man claims "he discovered the cancer fighting compound and he wanted to bring it back to China."
The feds maintain he started deleting raw data off of the college's computer system, which, if not caught, "would have been destroyed."
"This is a charge that is almost never used," said former US prosecutor Jeff Wagner.
"This alleges, first of all, that you stole a trade secret,” Wagner said. “Then that you also sold this trade secret with the intent and knowledge that you would be benefitting a foreign government."
It's an intriguing story, but it's a case Wagner doesn't believe will build tensions between the US and China.
"This is going to be an isolated situation,” he said. “I would be surprised if this were to become an international incident."
Hua Jun Zhao has been in trouble before. The college disciplined him months ago for putting lab data on his personal computer.
For this offense, Jun Zhao faces 15 years in prison. A grand jury has a little less than a month to hand down an indictment.
Public defender Juval Scott released a statement to TODAY'S TMJ4, saying that she is not interested in discussing the case on camera.
"It is very early in the process. Dr. Zhao is a talented young professional accused of a serious crime, and our office is looking forward to rolling up our sleeves on his behalf."