US Sailor Gets 27-Month Prison Term for Selling Military Secrets to China

( – When an American betrays their country, it elicits a unique kind of anger. When an American service member betrays their country and their oath to protect it, it’s almost unfathomable. That’s what a California sailor was convicted of doing, and now he’s headed to prison.

On January 8, the Department of Justice announced a former sailor was sentenced to 27 months in prison. He will also have to pay a fine of $5,500. In October, Petty Officer Wenheng Zhao, 26, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring with an intelligence office for China and one count of taking a bribe.

Zhao worked at the Naval Base Ventura County in Port Hueneme, California. He held a security clearance, and between August 2021 and May 2023, he received more than $14,000 in 14 separate payments from the Chinese intelligence officer. In return, the sailor collected and transmitted information that was not public regarding the Navy’s military exercises, training, critical infrastructure, and operational security. Among the information he transmitted were blueprints and electrical diagrams for a ground/air task-oriented radar system that the US has in Japan.

The defendant entered restricted military installations to collect the information he transmitted to the hostile foreign government. His deception comes at a time when US-China relations have deteriorated significantly and when the Chinese government has repeatedly made threats regarding US support for Taiwan.

According to the press release, Zhao used sophisticated encrypted methods to transmit the stolen information to the Chinese intelligence agent. He then destroyed the evidence in an attempt to conceal it.

US Attorney Martin Estrada for the Central District of California said the sailor “betrayed his country and disgraced himself” when he took money from the Chinese intelligence officer. As a result of his betrayal, Estrada said Zhao will go to prison, and he’s been kicked out of the US Navy. The US attorney promised to continue looking for people who betray the country’s national security.

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