Federal prosecutors announced the arrest of two U.S. Navy sailors on charges related to spying for China. Both are accused of having passed along national defense information to Chinese intelligence officials in return for cash payments, though their cases are separate ABC 30 reports. Jinchao "Patrick" Wei, a 22-year-old petty officer 2nd class, was arrested Wednesday and charged with espionage, more specifically, conspiracy to communicate defense information to aid a foreign government. Petty Officer Wenheng Zhao was also arrested Wednesday and is charged with conspiracy and receipt of a bribe by a public official. Zhao, 26, worked at the Naval Base Ventura County in Port Hueneme, Ca., and had an active U.S. security clearance and access to classified information. Wei was born in China and became a U.S. citizen in 2022 as he allegedly was sending information to his handler.
Officials said Wei began communicating with an intelligence officer from China's government in February 2022 who tasked him with passing photos, videos, and documents concerning U.S. Navy ships and their systems. The intelligence official allegedly instructed Wei to gather U.S. military information that was not public and warned him not to discuss their relationship and to destroy evidence of their activities. Wei was paid $5,000 by the Chinese intelligence official after having passed along an initial batch of manuals, officials alleged. Zhao is alleged to have begun working with a Chinese intelligence official in August 2021 and continuing through at least May of this year. He passed along photos and videos, blueprints for a radar system in Okinawa, and operational plans for a "large-scale" U.S. military exercise in the Pacific Ocean, the indictment says. In exchange for this information, Zhao alleges that he received around $14,866 in payments from the Chinese intelligence officer. A national security expert said the case "sends another clear message of the persistent and enduring threat of Chinese intelligence operations against the United States."