Navy Service Member Who Sold Secrets To China Sentenced To Just 27 Months In Prison

A Navy service member was sentenced to just over two years in prison after he pled guilty to being bribed to send sensitive military information to a Chinese intelligence officer. 

Petty Officer Wenheng Zhao, a 26-year-old from Monterey Park, California, was sentenced to just 27 months in prison and ordered to pay a $5,500 fine after his guilty plea for one count of conspiring with an intelligence officer and one count of receiving a bribe. Zhao could have faced up to 20 years in prison, 15 years for the conspiracy charge and 5 years for the bribery charge.

“Mr. Zhao betrayed his solemn oath to defend his country and endangered those who serve in the U.S. military,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “Today, he is being held to account for those crimes. The Justice Department is committed to combating the Chinese government’s efforts to undermine our nation’s security and holding accountable those who violate our laws as part of those efforts.” 

He was paid at least $14,866 by a Chinese intelligence officer for sending information on the U.S. Navy operational security, military trainings and exercises, and critical infrastructure, according to the DOJ. 

The Navy service member, who had a security clearance, worked at Naval Base Ventura County in Port Hueneme, California. The DOJ said that the bribery took place from August 2021 to May 2023 during which Zhao went into restricted locations to obtain information. 

The DOJ said that the information given to the Chinese intelligence officer included the plans of a large-scale training exercise in the Pacific and operational orders and documents on Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar system in Okinawa, Japan.

“Zhao betrayed his country and disgraced himself when he accepted bribes from an intelligence officer with the People’s Republic of China,” said U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada for the Central District of California. “As a result, he has now been removed from the military and will serve time in federal prison. Today’s sentence shows that my office will swiftly act to root out and punish those who seek to undermine our nation’s security.”

The investigation was led by the FBI Los Angeles Field Office’s Counterintelligence and Cyber Division, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and the IRS-Criminal Investigation unit.

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