SAN FRANCISCO--Four engineers have been arrested by Taiwan’s Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) for allegedly selling off Intel Corp. CPU samples on eBay for personal financial gain.
The CIB released a statement on Monday (Jan. 1) saying the four, confirmed to be engineers working for Intel's OEM manufacturers in Taiwan, had been apprehended in the city of Taoyuan.
Detectives had been tracking the suspects since September, conducting a raid on their homes last month, taking 178 sample CPUs – worth an estimated $82,500—into police custody.
According to the CIB’s statement, the suspects admitted to selling more than 500 Intel engineering sample CPUs since 2009.
The samples, of the sort usually sent out to OEM manufacturers before commercial releases, were beta version integrated circuits designed for compatibility qualification tests, the CIB said.
Engineering samples are the sole property of Intel and are produced and provided to Intel customers for product research and development purposes only. Intel’s customers are required to either return them to Intel or ensure that the engineering samples are destroyed.
Being engineering samples, the CPUs were sometimes of a rare type, said the CIB, making them all the more desirable to tinkerers looking for chips with unlocked multipliers.
The Taiwanese agency is now strongly urging people not to buy any more of the engineering sample CPUs online and reminded engineers thinking of running similar profit schemes that they could face up to five years in prison if caught.
Intel refused to comment.