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Oregon homeless man charged with Nike trade secrets theft

PORTLAND — A homeless man who apparently found advance copies of a Nike Inc. 2008 catalog in a Dumpster has been charged with theft of trade secrets.

Reynold Sare Chapin, 53, was arrested by FBI agents this week at Portland International Airport and charged under the Economic Espionage Act of 1996.

Jerry Needham, the federal public defender representing Chapin, told The Associated Press on Friday that Chapin was homeless and may have a history of mental illness.

"He was living in a tent near the airport," Needham said, adding there was evidence at a hearing in federal court on Thursday that "the catalog was recovered from a Dumpster."

The investigation started when Richie Woodworth, president of Saucony Inc., notified Nike that somebody had sent him photocopies of pages showing unreleased Nike products, according to an FBI affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Portland.

"People would die to see what's coming next," Woodworth told The Oregonian newspaper about the unexpected sneak peek at the unreleased Nike catalog.

Woodworth sent the unsolicited material he had received to Nike chief executive Mark Parker because it contained a claim the material would be sold to the highest bidder and that four CEOs had been offered a crack at it, according to the court documents.

Saucony is based in Lexington, Mass., and makes running shoes and apparel in direct competition with Beaverton-based Nike, though at a smaller scale. It reported $89 million in sales last year, while Nike reported more than $16 billion.

"Although we're very competitive and sometimes intensely competitive, I just didn't think that was sort of the right way to do things," Woodworth told the newspaper.

Chapin was identified through an e-mail address included with the material that was traced to an account used at the Multnomah County Library in Portland.

FBI Special Agent Phil Slinkard then arranged to meet Chapin at the airport in an undercover sting.

"During our encounter, he showed me some personal items, disclosed that he had obtained the catalogs from the printing and binding shop where he worked and then showed me three Nike 2008 catalogs," Slinkard said in his affidavit.

But Needham said a homeless man was probably not what Nike or the FBI expected.

"Mr. Chapin is certainly not some brilliant criminal mastermind, but I think a victim of circumstances," Needham said.