David L. Anderson
David L. Anderson, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California, speaks at a news conference to announce charges against Anthony Levandowski at a federal courthouse in San Jose, Calif., Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019. Image Credit: AP

San Francisco: A former Google engineer was hit with criminal charges on Tuesday alleging he stole trade secrets from the technology giant's self-driving car project and took them to Uber.

If convicted on the charges, Anthony Levandowski faces a up to10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, according federal prosecutors who announced the criminal indictment.

"All of us have the right to change jobs, none of us has the right to fill our pockets on the way out the door," US Attorney David Anderson said in a release announcing 33 counts of theft and attempted theft of trade secrets.

"Theft is not innovation."

Levandowski, 39, was a founding member of the group that worked on Waymo, a Google self-driving car project that is now a unit at parent company Alphabet.

Levandowski worked on the project from 2009 and was leader of the light-detecting and ranging (LiDAR) team when he resigned from Google without notice in January of 2016, according to the indictment.

The former star engineer left Google for his own startup called Otto, which was later acquired by Uber.

The theft allegations came out in a civil case in which Waymo accused Uber of stealing trade secrets. That case ended with a settlement between the two firms last year.

Waymo had alleged that Uber conspired with Levandowski, who according to Tuesday's indictment downloaded files that included circuit board schematics, instructions for installing and testing LiDAR, and an internal tracking document.