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Justice Department Arrests Two U.S. Navy Sailors on Espionage Charges

Tyler McBrien
Friday, August 4, 2023, 12:31 PM
Prosecutors unsealed two separate indictments in cases of U.S. Navy servicemembers accused of transmitting sensitive military information to Chinese intelligence officers.

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On Aug. 3, the Justice Department unsealed two indictments accusing U.S. Navy sailors of transmitting military secrets and sensitive information to Chinese intelligence officers. 

In the Southern District of California, prosecutors charged Jinchao Wei (also known as Patrick Wei), who worked as a machinist’s mate on the U.S.S. Essex at Naval Base San Diego, with spying for the People’s Republic of China in violation of the Espionage Act. The indictment alleges that, beginning in March 2022, Wei sent photographs and videos of the U.S.S. Essex’s defensive weapons to a Chinese intelligence officer, as well as information on the locations of other Navy ships. For his efforts, Wei received a payment of $5,000, according to the indictment. In a separate case in the Central District of California, the Justice Department charged another U.S. Navy sailor, Wenheng Zhao, with receiving bribes in exchange for sensitive U.S. military information. Zhao worked at Naval Base Ventura County in Port Hueneme, and he allegedly received $14,866 from the Chinese intelligence officer posing as a maritime economic researcher for his efforts. 

Read the indictment of United States v. Jinchao Wei here or below: 


Read the indictment of United States v. Wenheng Zhao here or below: 



Tyler McBrien is the managing editor of Lawfare. He previously worked as an editor with the Council on Foreign Relations and a Princeton in Africa Fellow with Equal Education in South Africa, and holds an MA in international relations from the University of Chicago.

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