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Two Navy servicemembers arrested on suspicion of sending military secrets to China

Wei allegedly began communicating with a Chinese intelligence officer in February 2022.

Published: August 3, 2023 7:36pm

Updated: August 3, 2023 8:08pm

Two U.S. Navy servicemembers have been arrested for allegedly transmitting sensitive military information to the Chinese government.

Authorities detained Jinchao Wei, aka Patrick Wei, on Wednesday and charged him with "conspiracy to send national defense information to an intelligence officer working for the People’s Republic of China," according to a press release from the Department of Justice.

Wei allegedly began communicating with a Chinese intelligence officer in February 2022. That official tasked Wei with providing information related to U.S. Navy ships. At the time, Wei was stationed about the U.S.S. Essex. He allegedly provided the Chinese official with information on the weapons systems of the vessel and also disclosed the locations of other U.S. ships.

The DOJ further identified specific instances in which Wei passed sensitive information to the officer, for which he often received remuneration.

U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California Randy Grossman termed the alleged handover of defense information an "ultimate act of betrayal" and vowed that "the United States will aggressively investigate and prosecute" comparable instances.

In a separate case, the DOJ charged Wenheng Zhao, aka Thomas Zhao, for receiving bribes in exchanging for sending information to a Chinese intelligence officer, who had masqueraded as a maritime economic researcher.

Zhao's passing of materials to the Chinese official began in August of 2021 and ran through at least May of this year.

One of the major exchanges involved Zhao's alleged handover of operations plans for a major U.S. military exercise in the Indo-Pacific region. The DOJ confirmed that Zhao provided specific locations and timings for the movement of naval forces in that incident.

U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California Martin Estrada excoriated Zhao, saying that "[b]y sending this sensitive military information to an intelligence officer employed by a hostile foreign state, the defendant betrayed his sacred oath to protect our country and uphold the Constitution."

Zhao faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.

The cases do not appear to be connected.

Ben Whedon is an editor and reporter for Just the News. Follow him on Twitter.

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