On Tuesday, a US Petty Officer allegedly admitted to taking payments totaling around $15,000 from a Chinese intelligence officer. Documents filed in court revealed the details. Images of private, non-classified information about the United States military were promised in exchange for the money.
Wenheng Zhao, 26, pled guilty to conspiring and accepting a bribe in a plea bargain filed in federal court in Los Angeles.
From what can be gathered from court documents and official US statements, Zhao has admitted to passing along to his Chinese handler operational orders, electrical diagrams, and designs for a radar system at a US military facility in Okinawa, Japan. He was arrested in August.
In August, another military sailor, Jinchao Wei, was arrested on similar charges concerning a separate investigation. Wei, a 22-year-old sailor stationed in San Diego on the USS Essex, was recently detained on espionage-related charges. Charges include conspiring to give sensitive defense data to the Chinese government.
Zhao, who works at Naval Base Ventura County in California, faces a maximum of twenty years in prison if convicted of the charges against him. However, a judge will have the last say in how he is punished.
Martin Estrada, the U.S. Attorney for California’s Central District, claimed that Zhao had sold out his country and the sailors of the U.S. Navy for money from an enemy nation. In this case, Estrada was referring to Zhao.
The United States has accused China of conducting extensive espionage and cyberattacks, claims that Beijing has rejected.
The Justice Department’s assistant attorney general for national security, Matthew G. Olsen, said in a statement that the people arrested in August are suspected of breaking their commitments to protect the United States and betraying the general public’s trust to benefit the Chinese government.
According to Olsen, the PRC gained access to sensitive military information directly due to their actions.