U.S. Navy Sailor Sentenced to Jail for Espionage, Taking Bribes from Chinese Intelligence

A U.S. Navy sailor, Petty Officer Wenheng “Thomas” Zhao, 26, has been sentenced to 27 months in jail after admitting guilt to conspiracy and receiving bribes totaling nearly $15,000 from a Chinese intelligence officer. Zhao, stationed at Naval Base Ventura County in California, pleaded guilty last October to sharing sensitive U.S. military information with his Chinese handler in exchange for monetary rewards. His actions included providing plans for military exercises in the Indo-Pacific region, operational orders, and crucial electrical diagrams and blueprints for a radar system located on a U.S. military base in Okinawa, Japan.

The sentencing, accompanied by a $5,500 fine, marks the culmination of a case highlighting the breach of national security and betrayal of trust by Zhao. Larissa Knapp, the executive assistant director of the FBI’s National Security Branch, emphasized the gravity of Zhao’s actions, noting his disregard for the oath he took to protect his country. Knapp reiterated the significance of this sentencing, emphasizing the persistent efforts of law enforcement and partners in thwarting espionage attempts, stating that this incident underscores China’s continuous engagement in espionage and cyberattacks—a charge Beijing consistently refutes. The case stands as a stark reminder of ongoing efforts to combat foreign intelligence threats targeting the United States.

This sentencing further amplifies the United States’ accusations against China concerning espionage and cyber warfare. Despite Beijing’s denial of such allegations, cases like Zhao’s underscore the persistent threat and the measures required to safeguard sensitive national information from foreign infiltration and espionage.

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