(NationalUSNews.com) — Two different naval service members have been arrested under suspicion of transmitting sensitive military information to the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Matthew Olsen, assistant attorney general for national security, says that Chinese intelligence services deliberately target people in the military they believe to have security clearance or access to sensitive information and “entice them with money” to betray their country. When speaking of one of the defendants, Olsen said he chose greed over “protecting the national security” of the US and was now being held accountable.
Petty Officer Wenheng Zhao was stationed at the Naval Base Ventura County in Port Hueneme, California. Zhao, who is also known as Thomas Zhao, originally pleaded not guilty when he was initially charged on August 3. He has since changed his plea to guilty to one count of receiving a bribe and one count of conspiring with the intelligence officer. Zhao has been in custody since his arrest and could face up to 20 years in federal prison. Zhao is believed to have been targeted because he held a U.S. security clearance. He has admitted to receiving nearly $15,000 in bribes.
Jinchao Wei, also known as Patrick Wei, is a U.S. Navy sailor who was assigned to the San Diego-based USS Essex. Wei worked as a machinist’s mate and held a U.S. security clearance, giving him access to sensitive national defense information about the ship’s desalination, weapons, and propulsion systems. He is alleged to have accepted thousands of dollars in return for passing on information about US Naval crafts and their locations to a Chinese handler while being instructed to destroy any communications that may link them. He has pleaded not guilty.
Petty Officer Zhao’s sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 8. Wei has a status hearing scheduled for Feb. 12. Assistant U.S. Attorney Olsen has issued a warning to others who may be tempted to betray the safety of America. If they find themselves putting personal profit above their patriotic duties, they should know that US national security is “committed to identifying” them and bringing them to justice.
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