Two U.S. Navy sailors, both of Chinese origin, have been arrested in two separate cases in the Southern and Central Districts of California on charges of espionage following accusations that they had been transmitting highly sensitive military information to the People’s Republic of China (PRC), according to U.S. Department of Justice.
U.S. Navy sailor Jinchao Wei, aka Patrick Wei, a 22-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen, was arrested Wednesday on espionage charges as he arrived for work at Naval Base San Diego, the homeport of the Pacific Fleet. He was indicted for conspiracy to send national defense information to an intelligence officer working for the People’s Republic of China.
According to the indictment, unsealed on Thursday, Wei was an active-duty sailor on the amphibious assault ship the U.S.S. Essex stationed at Naval Base San Diego. As a machinist’s mate, Wei held a U.S. security clearance and had access to sensitive national defense information concerning the ship’s weapons, propulsion, and desalination systems.
Between March 2022 and the present, Wei sent various photographs, videos, and documents concerning U.S. Navy ships. He received thousands of dollars in payment for the information.
The activities allegedly began in August 2021 and continued through May 2023. At the Chinese intelligence officer’s direction, Zhao reportedly recorded and transmitted U.S. military information, photographs, and videos, all under the guise that the intelligence officer was a maritime economic researcher seeking information for investment purposes.
For bribes, Zhao is accused of sending non-public operational plans for large-scale U.S. military exercises in the Indo-Pacific Region. These plans detailed specific locations, timings, amphibious landings, maritime operations, and logistical support.
Additionally, Zhao is alleged to have photographed electrical diagrams and blueprints for a radar system stationed on a U.S. military base in Okinawa, Japan.
Throughout their relationship, the intelligence officer allegedly directed Zhao to conceal their connection and destroy evidence of their unlawful scheme.