Two San Diego-based U.S. Navy sailors, Machinist’s Mate 3rd Class Jinchao Wei and Construction Electrician 2nd Class Wenheng Zhao, have been charged with espionage for allegedly providing military secrets to the Chinese government. The indictments, although separate, highlight the alleged actions of the sailors, who are accused of relaying sensitive information related to naval operations and ship systems to Chinese intelligence officers in exchange for monetary compensation.
- Jinchao Wei, assigned to the amphibious assault ship Essex, is accused of conspiring with a Chinese intelligence officer and providing national defense information in exchange for payments. He had allegedly received between $10,000 to $15,000 for his espionage activities.
- Wenheng Zhao, of the Naval Construction Group 1, allegedly took bribes over $14,800 to share sensitive U.S. Navy photos and videos, including details of a large-scale military exercise and information about the Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar Systems at a U.S. base in Okinawa, Japan.
- Both sailors have pleaded not guilty. Wei’s trial date is set to be decided on August 10, while Zhao’s trial is scheduled to commence on September 26 in Los Angeles.
- The U.S. Justice Department has charged Wei under a rarely used Espionage Act statute, which criminalizes the gathering or delivering of information to aid a foreign government.
- The indictments illustrate an ongoing challenge for the U.S. intelligence community, which has been aware of China’s effort to establish global intelligence-gathering operations.