A Monterey Park man serving in the United States Navy in Ventura County has pleaded guilty to giving a Chinese intelligence officer sensitive military information.
Petty Officer Wenheng Zhao, 26, was arrested two months ago and accused of taking bribes in exchange for the information.
On Tuesday, he pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiring with an intelligence officer and receiving a bribe.
Before his arrest, Zhao — also known as Thomas Zhao — worked at Naval Base Ventura County in Port Hueneme, the United States Department of Justice said in a news release.
“Between August 2021 and at least May 2023, Zhao admitted receiving at least $14,866 in at least 14 separate bribe payments from the intelligence officer,” the release added. “In exchange for the illicit payments, Zhao surreptitiously collected and transmitted to the intelligence 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.”
That information specifically concerned a “large-scale maritime training exercise in the Pacific theatre, operational orders, and electrical diagrams and blueprints for a Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar system located in Okinawa, Japan,” officials said.
Zhao is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 8, and he faces up to 20 years in federal prison, five for conspiracy and 15 for bribery.
“Officer Zhao betrayed his country and the men and women of the U.S. Navy by accepting bribes from a foreign adversary,” U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada said in the release. “While he and the [Chinese] officer he served took great pains to conceal their corrupt scheme, investigators were vigilant in uncovering this shameful plot. Today’s resolution, requiring Zhao to plead guilty to all charges against him, shows that we will act swiftly and decisively to protect our nation from those who seek to undermine our security.”