Navy sailors accused of giving military secrets to China

The DOJ indictment accuses the two servicemembers of handing over sensitive and classified military secrets to Chinese agents.


The federal government claims the men transmitted major secrets about drills and ships to Chinese intelligence in exchange for money.


“These arrests are a reminder of the relentless, aggressive efforts of the People’s Republic of China to undermine our democracy and threaten those who defend it,” said Assistant Director Suzanne Turner at the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division.

U.S. Navy Petty Officer Wenheng Zhao at Naval Base Ventura County, Calif., allegedly transmitted national security secrets from August 2021 to May 2023 to a Chinese agent posing as a maritime economic researcher.

Zhao allegedly earned more than $14,000 from the agent after dishing out secrets on a U.S. military exercise in the Indo-Pacific Region and blueprints of a radar system at U.S. military base in Okinawa, Japan.

Zhao was indicted on charges of receiving bribes in exchange for transmitting sensitive U.S. military information and faces up to 20 years in prison.


“Zhao chose to corruptly sell out his colleagues and his country,” said U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada for the Central District of California.

The Justice Department also charged Jinchao Wei, a U.S. Navy sailor at Naval Base San Diego in California, on charges of conspiracy.


Wei allegedly handed over national defense information to a Chinese agent for thousands of dollars during his time as a machinist on a small aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Essex.


From February 2022 through 2023, the Justice Department says he shared classified secrets on the Essex and similar ships, along with U.S. maritime drills.


U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman for the Southern District of California said the Defense Department had “entrusted members of our military with tremendous responsibility and great faith.”


“Our nation’s safety and security are in their hands,” Grossman said in a statement. “When a soldier or sailor chooses cash over country, and hands over national defense information in an ultimate act of betrayal, the United States will aggressively investigate and prosecute.”


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