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

A Navy service member, Petty Officer Wenheng Zhao, hailing from Monterey Park, California, has been sentenced to just over two years in prison following his guilty plea for accepting bribes in exchange for transmitting sensitive military information to a Chinese intelligence officer.

The 26-year-old Zhao was handed a 27-month prison term and a $5,500 fine. Despite facing the potential of a 20-year sentence, 15 years for the conspiracy charge and 5 years for the bribery charge, Zhao’s plea agreement led to a comparatively shorter sentence.

Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division remarked, “Mr. Zhao betrayed his solemn oath to defend his country and endangered those who serve in the U.S. military. 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.”

Zhao, who possessed security clearance, served at Naval Base Ventura County in Port Hueneme, California. The Department of Justice (DOJ) revealed that the illicit activities occurred between August 2021 and May 2023, during which Zhao accessed restricted locations to obtain classified information.

The DOJ disclosed that he received at least $14,866 from a Chinese intelligence officer for providing details on U.S. Navy operational security, military trainings, exercises, and critical infrastructure.

The information shared with the Chinese intelligence officer encompassed plans for a large-scale training exercise in the Pacific and operational orders and documents related to the Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar system in Okinawa, Japan.

The sentencing reflects the government’s commitment to addressing security threats posed by individuals compromising national defense interests for personal gain.