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Two Navy sailors charged with sending military information to China

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The Justice Department announced the arrests of two Navy sailors accused of “transmitting sensitive military information” to China. While the sailors were charged in separate cases, they are accused of similar crimes.

“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 for National Security Matthew Olsen said in a statement released Thursday, Aug. 3. “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.”

Patrick Wei, a 22-year-old sailor assigned to the San Diego-based USS Essex, was born in China. Prosecutors said he was approached by a Chinese intelligence officer in February 2022, while he was applying to become a naturalized U.S. citizen.

“According to our indictment, Wei provided China with photographs of military hardware, including guns, vehicles and planes,” Randy Grossman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California, said Thursday. “He delivered information about U.S. Marines involved in an upcoming international maritime warfare exercise, and he sold scores of technical and mechanical manuals related to the operation and power structures of amphibious assault ships.”

Meanwhile, Thomas Zhao has been based at Naval Base Ventura County, north of San Diego. He was charged with conspiring to collect nearly $15,000 in bribes from a Chinese intelligence officer in exchange for U.S. naval exercise plans, operational orders and photos and videos of electrical systems at Navy facilities between August 2021 through at least this May.

“Among other things, the indictment charges that Mr. Zhao transmitted operational plans for a large-scale U.S. military exercise in the Indo-Pacific region, which details specific location and timing of naval force movements, amphibious landings, maritime operations and logistical support,” Martin Estrada, U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California, said. “The scheme alleged here is just one more example of the People’s Republic of China’s ongoing and brazen campaign to target U.S. officials with access to sensitive military secrets.”

Both Navy sailors charged with sending military information to China pleaded not guilty in federal courts in San Diego and Los Angeles. They were ordered to be held until their detention hearings, which will take place Tuesday, Aug. 8.

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THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SAYS TWO NAVY SAILORS HAVE BEEN ARRESTED IN TWO SEPARATE CASES FOR TRANSMITTING SENSITIVE MILITARY INFORMATION TO CHINA.
IN ONE CASE, NAVY SAILOR PATRICK WEI IS ACCUSED OF SENDING PICTURES AND VIDEOS OF AN AMPHIBIOUS ASSAULT SHIP TO A CHINESE INTELLIGENCE OFFICER. IT IS ALSO ALLEGED THAT WEI SENT APPROXIMATELY 30 TECHNICAL AND MECHANICAL MANUALS. FOR DOING THAT, THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SAID WEI WAS PAID $5,000. WEI ALLEGEDLY HAD SENSITIVE INFORMATION REGARDING THE SHIPS WEAPONS, PROPULSION AND DESALINATION SYSTEMS. HE WAS INDICTED FOR CONSPIRACY TO SEND NATIONAL DEFENSE INFORMATION TO AN INTELLIGENCE OFFICER WORKING FOR THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA.
IN THE OTHER CASE, NAVY SAILOR THOMAS ZHAO HAS BEEN CHARGED WITH RECEIVING BRIBES IN EXCHANGE FOR TRANSMITTING SENSITIVE U.S. MILITARY INFORMATION TO AN INTELLIGENCE OFFICER POSING AS A MARITIME ECONOMIC RESEARCHER.
ZHAO ALLEGEDLY SENT THE OFFICER PLANS FOR A LARGE-SCALE U.S. MILITARY EXERCISE IN THE INDO-PACIFIC REGION. HE’S ACCUSED OF GIVING DETAILS ON THE SPECIFIC LOCATION AND TIMING OF NAVAL FORCE MOVEMENTS, AMPHIBIOUS LANDINGS, MARITIME OPERATIONS AND LOGISTICS SUPPORT.
THE SAILOR IS ALSO ACCUSED OF PHOTOGRAPHING ELECTRICAL DIAGRAMS AND BLUEPRINTS FOR A RADAR SYSTEM ON A US MILITARY BASE IN OKINAWA, JAPAN.
THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SAID HE RECEIVED NEARLY $15,000.
IF ZHAO IS CONVICTED, HE WOULD FACE UP TO 20 YEARS IN PRISON.