It was a chilly spring day when an Iowa farmer spotted something odd in his freshly planted cornfield: a short, bald Asian man on his knees, digging up seeds.
Not just any seeds — special inbred seeds, the product of years of secret research and millions of dollars in corporate investment, so confidential that not even the farmer knew exactly what he was growing.
The Iowa resident approached the trespasser, who grew flush and nervous, stammering something about being from a local university. When the farmer diverted his attention briefly to take a phone call, the stranger bolted to a waiting car and sped away.
That curious encounter eventually led to an exhaustive five-year federal investigation and prosecution into one of the most brazen examples of Chinese economic espionage against the U.S., a crime that annually costs American companies at least $150 billion.