US Navy Personnel Receives 27-Month Sentence for Sharing Military Data with China

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A recent court ruling has cast a spotlight on the profound consequences of betrayal and espionage within the US Navy. 

Thomas Zhao, also known as Petty Officer Wenheng Zhao, was sentenced to 27 months in prison and a $5,500 fine. What did he do wrong? transferring sensitive US military information to a People’s Republic of China (PRC) intelligence officer in return for cash payments.

Zhao, 26, from Monterey Park, California, admitted guilt in October 2023, pleading to charges of conspiracy with the foreign intelligence officer and receiving bribes. His actions were an egregious breach of trust and a direct violation of his commitment to safeguard the nation’s security.

Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division emphasized Zhao’s betrayal, labeling it as a threat to both national security and the safety of those serving in the US Navy. 

The gravity of the situation was reiterated by US Attorney Martin Estrada for the Central District of California, underscoring the swift action to remove Zhao from military service and ensure legal repercussions for compromising national security.

US Navy’s Compromised Trust

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A recent court ruling has cast a spotlight on the profound consequences of betrayal and espionage within the US Navy.

This case unveils the harsh reality of espionage, with Executive Assistant Director Larissa L. Knapp of the FBI’s National Security Branch highlighting the aggressive tactics employed by the People’s Republic of China in undermining US security. 

Zhao’s willingness to disclose sensitive information posed a significant risk, with the FBI underscoring the Chinese Intelligence Services’ disregard for laws and norms to gain intelligence advantages.

Zhao’s misconduct spanned a considerable duration, from August 2021 to at least May 2023. During this time, he accepted over $14,866 in multiple bribe payments while transmitting confidential US Navy information, including plans for military exercises and critical infrastructure blueprints, to the foreign intelligence officer.

This case underscores the unwavering commitment of law enforcement agencies, including the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) and FBI, in upholding national security. 

Assistant US Attorneys and various investigative agencies collaborated in the prosecution, showcasing a collective determination to safeguard sensitive information and hold accountable those who betray their oath to protect the United States.

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