Central Coast sailor pleads guilty to selling secrets to China

October 10, 2023


A U.S.Navy sailor stationed on the Central Coast pleaded guilty on Tuesday to transmitting sensitive information to a Chinese intelligence officer in exchange for bribery payments, according to the U.S, Department of Justice.

Petty Officer Wenheng Zhao, 26, who worked at Naval Base Ventura County in Port Hueneme and held a U.S. security clearance, admitted he engaged in a corrupt scheme to collect and transmit sensitive military information to the Chinese officer. He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring and one count of receiving a bribe.

Between Aug. 2021 and May 2023, the Chinese officer paid Zhao at least $14,866 in bribery payments. In exchange, Zhao surreptitiously collected and provided the officer sensitive, non-public information regarding U.S. Navy operational security, military trainings and exercises, and critical infrastructure. Zhao admitted he entered restricted military and naval installations to collect and record this information.

Zhao used sophisticated encrypted communication methods to transmit the information, destroying evidence, and concealing his relationship with the intelligence officer. Zhao’s conduct violated his duties to protect such information and the oath he swore to protect the United States.

“Mr. Zhao’s admission makes it clear that he abandoned the oath he swore to uphold by providing sensitive information to a U.S. adversary in exchange for cash,” said Donald Alway, the assistant director at the FBI’s Los Angeles field office. “Zhao put his fellow servicemen at risk when he yielded to overtures from the Chinese government, a nation actively targeting Americans who have access to state secrets. I’m proud of the strong partnerships and hard work that resulted in today’s successful outcome.”

As a result of today’s guilty pleas, Zhao faces a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison – five years for the conspiracy count and 15 years for the bribery charge. Zhao’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for Jan. 8.


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I recently went home to deal with some family business only to learn that my neighborhood filled with WW2 vets has been purchased by Chinese immigrants. If you go to the store you’ll see the isle signs, cereals, spices etc. but on each sign you’ll see #### or whatever in Chinese. They came here with lots of money, which we don’t have, that the IRS didn’t count but they did get it from us on the pre-IRS made in China plan. Just another perspective and Oh back to the Top Secret stuff they probably manufacture for us too?

From what I hear, the exact number of nuclear warheads carried in our submarine fleet was divulged.

Why would they let this horrible spy off with such a light sentence? Our laws just don’t make sense

“Our laws just don’t make sense.” Quite true. And, not only that, half the time the laws aren’t even enforced to begin with.

I’m not sure if 40 years of consecutive sentences can be called a light.

We don’t need to kill everyone who breaks the law.

He didn’t fail to pay a parking ticket, he put tens of thousands of American lives at risk of death and injury.

If we still had military minded people in charge of the military, he would be hanged.

Neither of us know the severity or details of the crime; the military prosecutors do, and if they think 20-40 years in federal prison is appropriate, who are we to second guess?

It probably has to do with his guilty plea. Cooperate fully, take responsibility, and you may receive mercy from the firing-line.