A lawyer for the mechanical engineer said Ford’s security team feared she was stealing trade secrets by hiding secret recording devices in conference rooms at the automaker’s headquarters, nicknamed the "Glass House."

Court records that would explain why the FBI had probable cause to search Ford and the engineer’s home are sealed in federal court. The government’s lawyer on the case, Assistant US Attorney Jonathan Tukel, heads the National Security Unit in Detroit, successfully prosecuted underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and specializes in cases involving espionage, counter-terrorism and terrorism financing, among others.

COMMENT: Why would a mechanical engineer with an earned doctorate be using eight tasked with transcribing substantive issues relating to the taking of notes?

A Ford spokeswoman, Susan Krusel, declined to discuss the investigation in detail, but said Ford is not a target.

“Ford and the FBI are working together on a joint investigation involving a former employee,” she said. “As this is an ongoing investigation, we are not able to provide additional details.”

The search warrants reveal that the FBI searched Ford’s headquarters July 11 and agents had permission to search the entire facility. Agents were authorized to seize digital and electronic recording devices given to Ford representatives by Wyandotte resident and former Ford engineer Sharon Leach, 43, emails and other records, according to a copy of one search warrant.

The search at Ford’s headquarters came three weeks after FBI agents raided Leach’s home on St. John Street and seized more than two dozen items, according to a search warrant inventory obtained by THE DETROIT NEWS.

Until recently, Leach was a mechanical engineer with a doctorate at Ford, where she had been employed for about 17 years. In April, she was included on a panel of experts talking about hybrid vehicle performance at the 2014 SAE World Congress at Cobo Center.

She was fired recently after Ford’s security team discovered recording devices planted in the automaker’s meeting rooms, her lawyer Marshall Tauber said.

Leach admitted hiding the devices under tables to help her transcribe meetings, her lawyer said.

The devices were installed before meetings, but could not be easily removed, her lawyer said. The audio devices were left in the conference rooms and unintentionally recorded other meetings.

“She was a low-level engineer,” Tauber said. “Her salary wasn’t even $120,000.” $120,000 per annum hardly seems "low-level."

Leach was fired in June after she admitted using the recording devices, her lawyer said.

In all, Leach gave Ford security eight Sansa recording devices, her lawyer said. Those are the same devices listed on the FBI’s search warrant on July 11, Tauber said.

The FBI raided Leach's home June 20.

During the search at Leach’s home, agents seized more than two dozen items, including several desktop and laptop computers, a credit card, thumb drives and financial records, according to the search warrant receipt.

Leach refused to sign the FBI’s receipt listing items seized execution of the search warrant, according to court records. Consequently, FBI agents left copies on her dining room table.