US navy sailors arrested for allegedly selling secrets to China


The two are accused of passing on sensitive defense information for cash.

US navy sailors arrested for allegedly selling secrets to China

US Naval Base San Diego, California, U.S., March 19, 2020. Jinchao Wei was arrested Wednesday on his way to work there.

Two U.S. Navy sailors have been arrested for allegedly spying for China, federal prosecutors announced Thursday.

Accused of passing on naval secrets to Chinese agents for cash, Jinchao “Patrick” Wei, 22, and Wenheng Zhao, 26 were arrested on Wednesday in separate cases.

Wei, a petty officer 2nd class aboard the amphibious ship USS Essex, currently stationed in San Diego, was arrested and charged with espionage – specifically, providing defense information to aid a foreign government.

Zhao, who worked at the U.S. Naval Base in Port Hueneme, California, has an active U.S. security clearance and was charged with conspiracy and receipt of a bribe by a public official.

Wei’s indictment alleges that in June 2022, he sent a Chinese intelligence officer approximately 30 technical and mechanical manuals.

The manuals detailed the operations of multiple systems aboard the Essex and similar ships, including power, steering, aircraft and deck elevators, as well as damage and casualty controls.

The indictment alleges that Wei was paid U.S.$5,000.

Zhao’s indictment alleges he passed on sensitive U.S. military information to an individual posing as a maritime economic researcher – actually a Chinese intelligence officer.

Zhao, who held a U.S. security clearance, beginning in August 2021 and continuing through at least May 2023, allegedly recorded military information, photographs and videos, before transmitting to the “maritime economic researcher.”

The Chinese intelligence officer paid Zhao approximately $14,866, the indictment alleges.

Both men pleaded not guilty in federal courts in San Diego and Los Angeles, according to reports. They are being held until their detention hearings, which will take place on August 8 in the same cities.

“Through the alleged crimes committed by these defendants, sensitive military information ended up in the hands of the People’s Republic of China,” Matthew Olsen, the Justice Department’s assistant attorney general for national security, said on August 3 at a press conference in San Diego.

“The charges demonstrate [China’s] determination to obtain information that is critical to our national defense by any means so it can be used to their advantage,” said Olsen. 

“The alleged conduct also represents a violation of the solemn obligation of members of our military to defend our country to safeguard our secrets and to protect their fellow service members.”

Assistant Director Suzanne Turner of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division said, “These arrests are a reminder of the relentless, aggressive efforts of the People’s Republic of China to undermine our democracy and threaten those who defend it.

“The PRC compromised enlisted personnel to secure sensitive military information that could seriously jeopardize U.S. national security. The FBI and our partners remain vigilant in our determination to combat espionage, and encourage past and present government officials to report any suspicious interactions with suspected foreign intelligence officers.”

China has yet to comment.

Edited by Mike Firn and Taejun Kang. 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *