Two US Navy sailors have been arrested for allegedly conspiring to pa*s sensitive security information to Chinese officials in separate plots, officials said Thursday.
Jinchao Wei, a 22-year-old sailor aboard the San Diego-based USS Ess*x, was arrested Wednesday on espionage charges after he provided China with detailed information about the ship and its crew.
Federal prosecutors alleged that Wei made contact with a Chinese government intelligence officer in February 2022 and provided photographs and video of the Ess*x, an amphibious a*sault ship that specializes in transporting and deploying helicopters.
The information disclosed by Wei included technical and mechanical manuals as well as details on the number and training of Marines in an upcoming exercise, the Justice Department said in its indictment.
Officials alleged that the Chinese official advised Wei not to discuss their relationship and to take steps to cover his tracks and destroy any evidence that they knew each other.
Wei was charged under a rarely used espionage law that makes it a crime to gather or provide information to help a foreign government.
In another case, Wenheng Zhao, a member of the navy service, is accused of collecting bribes from a Chinese intelligence officer in exchange for sensitive military photos, videos and plans.
The scheme allegedly began around August 2021 and continued until at least May 2023, the Justice Department said.
Prosecutors say Zhao also secretly collected and recorded some of the information he pa*sed on.
“These individuals are charged with violating their covenants to protect the United States and with betraying the public trust for the benefit of the PRC government,” the division’s a*sistant attorney general said. Department of Justice National Security, Matthew G. Olsen.
“These arrests remind us of the relentless and aggressive efforts of the People’s Republic of China to undermine our democracy and threaten those who defend it,” said Suzanne Turner, deputy director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division.
The two sailors were charged with similar crimes, but they were charged in separate cases.
It was unclear Thursday whether the two plots were related or whether the Navy sailors were courted or paid by the same Chinese intelligence officer.