- Associated Press - Sunday, June 7, 2015

PITTSBURGH (AP) - The death of a retired researcher accused of having stolen trade secrets for a Chinese company won’t stop the investigation, authorities in western Pennsylvania said.

Retired PPG researcher Thomas Rukavina killed himself Friday night in his Plum Township home, the Allegheny County medical examiner’s office said Sunday. An autopsy determined he died of asphyxiation due to hanging. The 62-year-old was still wearing an electronic monitoring device that was a condition of his release.

Rukavina was arrested May 7 and later indicted on charges of having stolen trade secrets on plastic windows for use on aircraft and high-speed trains that PPG says are worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

U.S. Attorney David Hickton told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (http://bit.ly/1QBVD5O) that the FBI will continue to spearhead the probe but he couldn’t be more specific due to the “sensitive nature” of the case.

Although the criminal case ends with Rukavina’s death, Hickton said the investigation will highlight the “top priority to protect the intellectual property of companies in this country.”

PPG officials, who are cooperating with the investigation, have told the FBI that the stolen information involves products under development since 2004, which amount to the “industry’s first new transparent plastic in more than 50 years,” according to the criminal complaint.

Rukavina retired in July 2012, but the FBI complaint said emails show he had been in contact with a Chinese company since at least March 2013. The company, which has not been criminally charged, makes glass for automotive and other specialty purposes.

Rukavina was held for almost three weeks in Allegheny County jail pending a psychiatric examination, but defense attorney Lee Rothman said his client’s insomnia, severe anxiety and depression was hampering his ability to prepare a defense. A federal magistrate granted his release on $100,000 unsecured bond.

Hickton, who had opposed Rukavina’s release, said no one should be blamed for his “sad and tragic” death.

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Information from: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, http://pghtrib.com

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