U.S. officials announced on Thursday that two U.S. Navy sailors had been arrested on suspicion of crimes relating to national security and having links to China. The sailors have been identified as Jinchao We and Wenheng Zhao.
According to U.S. authorities, Wei, a 22-year-old sailor assigned to the USS Essex in San Diego, was arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of conspiring to provide Chinese officials information about the nation’s defense. On Thursday, federal prosecutors announced an indictment against Wei and offered additional information at a news conference in San Diego.
Federal prosecutors claim in an indictment unsealed on Thursday that Wei communicated with a Chinese government intelligence officer in February 2022 and, upon the officer’s request, gave pictures and recordings of the ship he was assigned to. According to the Justice Department, the material he supplied included technical and mechanical documents as well as specifics regarding the quantity and preparation of Marines for a forthcoming exercise.
Wei, who was born in China, was approached by the Chinese officer as he was applying for U.S. citizenship, and the officer even applauded him after he became a citizen, according to federal officials who spoke at a news conference on Thursday.
Separately, the Justice Department announced charges against a second Navy service member. Wenheng Zhao is accused by the Justice Department of accepting bribes in exchange for providing classified images and recordings of the American military to a Chinese intelligence officer.
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In exchange for $15,000, Zhao supplied intelligence to China over a two-year period through encrypted communications, including pictures of an operating center in Okinawa, Japan, Martin Estrada, U.S. attorney for the central district of California claimed.
It was unclear on Thursday whether the two sailors were courted or paid by the same Chinese intelligence officer because the two sailors were accused of similar acts, but they were prosecuted in separate cases.