2 Sailors Charged with Providing Sensitive Military Information to China

An MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter at Naval Base San Diego. Photo: Navy

By Steve Neavling

Two U.S. Navy sailors have been arrested and charged with providing sensitive military information to China, the Justice Department announced Thursday. 

Jinchao Wei, also known as Patrick Wei, was arrested Wednesday on espionage charges as he arrived for work at the Naval Base San Diego, which is home of the Pacific Fleet. He served aboard the Essex, an amphibious ship stationed at Naval Base San Diego. As a mechanist’s mate, Wei had U.S. security clearance and access to sensitive national defense information about how the shipped worked. 

Another sailor, Petty Officer Wehneng Zhao, 26, also known as Thomas, was charged as part of a federal grand jury with receiving bribes in exchange for providing sensitive U.S. military information to a Chinese intelligence officer. Zhao worked at the Naval Base Ventura County in Port Hueneme and had security clearance. 

“These 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,” Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division said in a statement. “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.”

Suzanne Turner, assistant director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division, added, “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.”

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