Navy Service Member Who Gave Secrets To China Sentenced To 27 Months in Prison

( – A member of the U.S. Navy was sentenced to 27 months in prison for accepting bribes from a Chinese intelligence officer in exchange for classified information. Petty Officer Wenheng Zhao, 26, of Monterey Park, California, will serve just over two years and has to pay a $5,500 fine as part of his guilty plea deal.

Zhao pleaded guilty to charges of bribery and conspiracy and potentially could have been sentenced to twenty years if he received the maximum sentences on both charges. His sentence was extremely light compared to others who have been caught and sentenced for similar allegations.

Zhao took just under $15,000 in exchange for details regarding Naval security protocols, training practices, and information regarding critical infrastructure, according to prosecutors. Zhao had clearance to access classified information while working at Naval Base Ventura County in the city of Port Hueneme, California. Prosecutors said that the bribes occurred over the period from August 2021 through May 2023.

Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen said that Zhao violated his oath to defend the United States and put fellow servicemen in danger. He further added that the Department of Justice was focused on prosecuting anyone who collaborated with the Chinese Communist Party and its attempts to violate American national security.

U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada qualified Zhao’s actions as a betrayal and said he “disgraced himself” by accepting bribes from an intelligence agent from China. Estrada further indicated that Zhao’s criminal action resulted in him losing his job with the military and serving hard time in a federal prison.

Estrada added that his office will continue to seek out and punish offenders who threaten or undermine U.S. national security.

The Los Angeles FBI helped prosecute the case through its Counterintelligence and Cyber Division in collaboration with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service as well as the IRS. The case highlights the ongoing espionage and spycraft between China and the United States.

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