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US Navy sailor who gave sensitive military info to China sentenced to over 2 years in prison

The Navy sailor received more than $14,000 for transmitting information to a Chinese intelligence official over the course of nearly two years.

Published: January 9, 2024 10:42am

The U.S. Navy sailor who pleaded guilty to giving sensitive military information to China in exchange for a bribe was sentenced to more than two years in prison and ordered to pay a $5,500 fine, the Justice Department said.

The court on Monday sentenced Petty Officer Wenheng Zhao, also known as Thomas Zhao, to 27 months in prison after he pleaded guilty in October to one charge of receiving a bribe and another of conspiring with an intelligence official, prosecutors said

Officials arrested Zhao, a 26-year-old resident of Monterey Park, California, in August. Prosecutors said at the time that Zhao faced up to 20 years in prison if convicted. 

Zhao gave a Chinese intelligence official "sensitive, non-public information regarding U.S. Navy operational security, military trainings and exercises, and critical infrastructure" and in exchange, he received at least $14,866 between August 2021 and May 2023 in at least 14 different bribe payments, officials said. 

"Mr. Zhao betrayed his solemn oath to defend his country and endangered those who serve in the U.S. military," Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen said Monday after Zhao's sentencing. "Today, he is being held to account for those crimes. The Justice Department is committed to combatting the Chinese government’s efforts to undermine our nation’s security and holding accountable those who violate our laws as part of those efforts."

The Biden administration in 2022 replaced the Justice Department's controversial Trump-era China Initiative, but it has been prosecuted multiple high-level cases involving the Asian country since then. 

Follow Madeleine Hubbard on X or Instagram.

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