US Navy sailor pleads guilty to sharing military secrets with Chinese intelligence officer

 A United States Navy sailor pleaded guilty on Tuesday to sharing sensitive military secrets with a Chinese intelligence officer in exchange for payments, the Department of Justice reported.

In August, Petty Officer Wenheng Zhao was arrested and charged with accepting bribes in exchange for U.S. military information. The DOJ accused Zhao of transmitting the sensitive data to a Chinese intelligence officer posing as a maritime economic researcher. 

The 26-year-old was stationed at California's Naval Base Ventura County in Port Hueneme. As part of Zhao's role, he was granted U.S. security clearance.

The DOJ accused Zhao of providing intelligence information to a Chinese officer from August 2021 through at least May 2023. Over that period, the petty officer sent photographs of electrical diagrams and blueprints for a Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar system at a military base in Okinawa, Japan.

On Tuesday, Zhao admitted to accepting nearly $15,000 in at least 14 separate payments from the intelligence officer in exchange for the sensitive military information. According to the DOJ, Zhao and the Chinese officer attempted to cover up their communications and unlawful activity by utilizing encrypted messaging systems and destroying evidence. 

Zhao pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring with an intelligence officer and one count of receiving a bribe. The petty officer admitted to collecting and transmitting "sensitive, non-public information regarding U.S. Navy operational security, military trainings and exercises, and critical infrastructure," the DOJ reported. He also admitted to entering restricted military and naval installations to collect sensitive information. 

Zhao faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for both charges.

Assistant Attorney General for National Security Matthew G. Olsen noted that Chinese intelligence officers specifically target clearance holders to gain access to sensitive information.

"When contacted by his coconspirator, rather than reporting it to the Navy, the Defendant chose greed over protecting the national security of the United States. He is now being held accountable for his crimes. To others tempted to put personal profit ahead of patriotic duty, know that we are committed to identifying you and bringing you to justice," Olsen stated.

"Officer Zhao betrayed his country and the men and women of the U.S. Navy by accepting bribes from a foreign adversary," said U.S. attorney Martin Estrada. "While he and the PRC officer he served took great pains to conceal their corrupt scheme, investigators were vigilant in uncovering this shameful plot. Today's resolution, requiring Zhao to plead guilty to all charges against him, shows that we will act swiftly and decisively to protect our nation from those who seek to undermine our security."

US Navy sailor pleads guilty to sharing military secrets with Chinese intelligence officer US Navy sailor pleads guilty to sharing military secrets with Chinese intelligence officer Reviewed by Your Destination on October 12, 2023 Rating: 5

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