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US Navy duo allegedly sold crucial military info to China

Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex and the Royal Australian Navy Canberra-class landing helicopter dock HMAS Canberra (L02) transit the Pacific Ocean during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022 during an amphibious raid. Photo: US Navy/ Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Wesley Richardson.

Two US Navy servicemembers have been arrested for allegedly transmitting sensitive military information to the People’s Republic of China.

Two US Navy servicemembers have been arrested for allegedly transmitting sensitive military information to the People’s Republic of China.

US Navy sailor Jinchao Wei (aka Patrick Wei) and US Navy servicemember Petty Officer Wenheng Zhao (aka Thomas Zhao) have been arrested in two separate cases in the Southern and Central Districts of California, according to the US Department of Justice.

It’s alleged that Wei, as an active-duty sailor and machinist’s mate with US security clearance on the USS Essex amphibious assault ship stationed at Naval Base San Diego, began communicating with a PRC intelligence officer in February 2022.


A Chinese intelligence officer tasked Wei with passing him photos, videos, and documents concerning US Navy ships and their systems, US Marine training and upcoming international maritime warfare exercises and to hide their communications by deleting records and using encrypted communication methods.

Wei allegedly sent photographs and videos of USS Essex, disclosed the locations of various Navy ships, and described defensive weapons of the Essex between March 2022 and this year.

It’s further alleged that multiple photographs of military equipment and approximately 30 technical and mechanical manuals on export control warnings, power, steering, aircraft and deck elevators, damage and casualty controls were sent in June last year.

A further 26 technical and mechanical manuals on power structure and operation of the Essex and similar ships was allegedly sent in August that year, as well as a weapon control systems technical manual on layout, location, berthing quarters, and weapon systems allegedly sent in October.

Overhaul and upgrades blueprints of the Essex were requested and allegedly provided by Wei, as well as mechanical problems with similar vessels. He was also instructed to destroy any evidence of the relationship and activities.

In a separate case, US Navy servicemember Petty Officer Wenheng Zhao (aka Thomas Zhao) was charged with allegedly receiving bribes in exchange for transmitting sensitive US military information to an individual posing as a maritime economic researcher interested in investment decisions.

Zhao is alleged to have disclosed non-public sensitive US military information, while holding a US security clearance and working at Naval Base Ventura County in Port Hueneme from August 2021 to May 2023. Zhao allegedly received approximately $14,866 for the information and if convicted, faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

Zhao allegedly sent the Chinese military officer non-public and controlled operational plans for a large-scale US military exercise in the Indo-Pacific Region including the specific location and timing of Naval force movements, amphibious landings, maritime operations, and logistics support.

It’s alleged Zhao also photographed electrical diagrams and blueprints for a radar system stationed on a US military base in Okinawa, Japan. Again, instructions were given to destroy evidence of the relationship.

US Justice Department National Security Division Assistant Attorney General Matthew G Olsen said both individuals stand accused of violating the commitments they made to protect the United States and betraying the public trust, to the benefit of the PRC government.

“The Department of Justice will continue to use every tool in our arsenal to counter threats from China and to deter those who aid them in breaking our laws and threatening our national security,” he said.

The FBI Los Angeles Field Office’s Counterintelligence and Cyber Division and NCIS investigated the case. IRS Criminal Investigation provided substantial assistance. The FBI and Naval Criminal Investigative Service also investigated the case.

FBI Counterintelligence Division Assistant Director Suzanne Turner said the FBI and partners remain vigilant to combat espionage and encourage past and present government officials to report any suspicious interactions with suspected foreign intelligence officers.

“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,” she said.

“The PRC compromised enlisted personnel to secure sensitive military information that could seriously jeopardise US national security.”

Assistant US Attorneys John Parmley and Fred Sheppard for the Southern District of California and Trial Attorney Adam Barry of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section are prosecuting the case.

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