U.S. Navy Servicemembers Arrested for Espionage: Betrayal, Bribery to China 


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SAN DIEGO, CA – The Department of Justice announced Thursday the arrest of two U.S. Navy servicemembers in separate cases involving espionage and sensitive military information transmission to the People’s Republic of China (PRC). 

According to DOJ reports, Jinchao Wei and Wenheng Zhao, have been indicted on charges related to betraying their country and receiving bribes in exchange for transmitting classified U.S. military data.

Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division expressed deep concern over the situation, vowing that the Department will use all resources to counter Chinese threats and deter anyone aiding them in breaking U.S. laws.

The first case, United States v. Jinchao Wei, revealed that Wei, also known as Patrick Wei, was an active-duty sailor stationed at Naval Base San Diego. As a machinist’s mate with access to sensitive national defense information, he communicated with a Chinese intelligence officer starting in February 2022. In exchange for photographs, videos, and manuals about U.S. Navy ships, Wei received thousands of dollars from the intelligence officer.

The indictment further disclosed that Wei allegedly sent technical manuals containing critical technology data without obtaining the required license, which led to his arrest on espionage charges. The intelligence officer demanded information about U.S. Marines’ training and the overhaul of the U.S.S. Essex, showing the gravity of the breach.

The second case, United States v. Wenheng Zhao, focused on Petty Officer Zhao, stationed at Naval Base Ventura County. Zhao allegedly received bribes from a Chinese intelligence officer while divulging non-public sensitive U.S. military information under the pretense of aiding a maritime economic researcher. The indictment stated that Zhao sent operational plans for a large-scale military exercise and photographed electrical diagrams and blueprints of a radar system stationed in Okinawa, Japan.

U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman and U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada expressed their disappointment and pledged to aggressively investigate and prosecute such betrayals of the country’s trust.

Both cases shed light on the relentless efforts of the People’s Republic of China to undermine the U.S. democracy and serve as a stark reminder of the need for vigilance and cooperation between law enforcement agencies. The FBI and Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) played pivotal roles in bringing these cases to light, and the IRS Criminal Investigation offered significant assistance.

The accused now face serious charges that could result in substantial prison sentences if found guilty. 


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