Arrested | U.S. Navy Sailor from Monterey Park Indicted for Transmitting Sensitive Military Information to China

In a serious turn of events, two U.S. Navy sailors have been arrested for transmitting sensitive military information to the People’s Republic of China (PRC), posing a serious threat to U.S. national security.


According to a release from the US DOJ and court records, Zhao, who worked at Naval Base Ventura County in Port Hueneme and held U.S. security clearance, began his illicit dealings with the Chinese intelligence officer in August 2021. The indictment further alleges that in exchange for bribes, Zhao also photographed electrical diagrams and blueprints for a radar system stationed on a U.S. military base in Okinawa, Japan.

Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen stressed the gravity of the betrayal, declaring that the Department of Justice will use “every tool in our arsenal to counter threats from China.” Assistant Director Suzanne Turner of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division further remarked that the PRC’s aggressive efforts to “compromise enlisted personnel” to obtain critical information are a reminder of the threats to American democracy and national defense.

United States v. Jinchao Wei, Southern District of California

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Jinchao Wei, aka Patrick Wei, an active-duty sailor on the U.S.S. Essex stationed at Naval Base San Diego, was arrested yesterday on espionage charges. In his role as a machinist’s mate, Wei held a U.S. security clearance and was privy to confidential information about the ship’s weapons and propulsion systems.

The indictment reveals a conspiracy that began in February 2022, when Wei was tasked by a Chinese intelligence officer with providing photos, videos, and documents concerning U.S. Navy ships. The two utilized encrypted communication and deletion of records to keep their dealings secret.

Between March 2022 and the present, Wei sent extensive information about the Essex and other Navy ships, including technical manuals and mechanical details. He was paid thousands of dollars for this information, including a $5,000 payment for providing 30 technical manuals.

The indictment also alleges violations of International Traffic in Arms Regulations by Wei, as he transmitted data without the required U.S. government license.

U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman emphasized the severity of the betrayal, stating that choosing “cash over country” in such a manner is “an ultimate act of betrayal.” The FBI and Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) are actively investigating the case.

United States v. Wenheng Zhao, Central District of California

Petty Officer Wenheng Zhao, aka Thomas Zhao, 26, of Monterey Park, California, was also arrested following an indictment, charged with receiving bribes for transmitting sensitive U.S. military information to a PRC intelligence officer.

Zhao, who worked at Naval Base Ventura County in Port Hueneme and held U.S. security clearance, began his illicit dealings with the Chinese intelligence officer in August 2021. He was paid approximately $14,866 for providing sensitive information, including operational plans for a significant U.S. military exercise in the Indo-Pacific Region and blueprints for a radar system in Okinawa, Japan.

U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada expressed strong condemnation, accusing Zhao of betraying his “sacred oath to protect our country.” If convicted, Zhao faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

The two cases have sent shockwaves through the military community and will undoubtedly have wider implications for U.S.-China relations. The situation serves as a stark reminder of the continued threats and challenges faced by the U.S. in safeguarding national security, and the significant Chinese population in nearby cities like South Pasadena & San Marino adds another layer of complexity to the narrative.

Both servicemembers are presumed innocent until proven guilty. The FBI, NCIS, and IRS Criminal Investigation are continuing to probe these incidents, with several Assistant U.S. Attorneys working diligently to prosecute the cases.