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Two convicted of selling firm's product secrets

A St. Petersburg man and his accomplice have pleaded guilty to trying to sell a company's trade secrets, the first prosecution in the Middle District of Florida using a law aimed at curbing industrial espionage.

Steven Michael Snyder and Jolene Hilda Neat Rector face a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for conspiring to convey trade secrets and conveying trade secrets.

According to the plea agreement, Snyder, 35, was working at R.P. Scherer Inc. in St. Petersburg in August 1999 when his friend Rector called from Nevada where she was employed with a competing company. R.P. Scherer develops and manufactures delivery systems for drug, cosmetic and recreational products. The systems include gels and fillers for products like vitamin supplements or paint balls.

After the conversations, Snyder sent Rector, who once worked at R.P. Scherer, gel and fill formulas, shell weights for paint balls and experimental production data, according to the plea agreement. Rector then contacted officials with Nelson Paint Ball Inc. in Michigan, told them she had obtained 173 formulas from R.P. Scherer and offered to sell them for $50,000, the agreement said.

A vice president with Nelson Paint Ball called an official with R.P. Scherer, who asked Nelson Paint Ball to request a couple of pages of the formulas from Rector to verify that she had the information. When she faxed a few pages, R.P. Scherer confirmed that the pages were part of its formulas and contacted the FBI.

The FBI set up a sting operation and taped a conversation in which Rector admitted to knowing she was engaging in illegal activity, according to court records. An undercover FBI agent acting as a Nelson Paint Ball official met with Rector, who sold the agent the formulas, records said.