OAN’s Roy Francis
5:11 PM – Wednesday, August 9, 2023
The mother of one of the United States Navy sailors that has been charged with providing sensitive information to the Chinese had urged him to work with the Chinese intelligence officer, the prosecution said in court on Tuesday.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Fred Sheppard leveled the accusation against Jinchao Wei during the hearing on Tuesday in federal court in San Diego. Sheppard also urged the judge not to release the suspect, although he did not name the mother in court.
Wei is one of the sailors based out of California that are accused of providing sensitive information to China which included details on wartime exercises, naval operations and critical technical material. The two sailors were arrested last week, although prosecutors have not confirmed whether the two had worked with the same Chinese officer.
U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman said that Wei had provided China specific information regarding military hardware and movements.
“Wei provided China with photographs of military hardware, including guns, vehicles and planes,” Grossman said. “He delivered information about U.S. Marines involved in an upcoming international maritime warfare exercise.”
Wei, who is 22-years-old, was charged by the Justice Department under an Espionage Act statute which makes it a crime to deliver information to aid a foreign government. Prosecutors said that Wei was first approached by the Chinese officer in 2022 while he applying to become a naturalized U.S. citizen.
On Tuesday, when arguing against the release of Wei, Sheppard said that the sailor who was originally born in China, went home to Wisconsin for Christmas to visit his mother. He said that the mother of the sailor knew of her son’s arrangement and had encouraged him to keep aiding the Chinese officer.
He said that the reason she had urged him to continue was because it might help gain a job with China’s Communist party after he leaves the Navy.
Sheppard went on to say that the Chinese officer had told Wei that the Chinese government would fly him and his mother to China in order to meet in person. The 22-year-old sailor had then searched for flights to China for the spring.
The prosecutor also said that the Chinese officer told Wei to buy a phone and a computer in order to pass on information easier, and that he would be reimbursed if he provided the receipt.
The indictment against Wei includes around 50 manuals which contain technical and mechanical data regarding U.S. Navy ships as well as details regarding an upcoming Marine exercise. The prosecution said that Wei’s actions had put thousands of sailors and marines at risk.
Wei is said to have made anywhere between $10,000 and $15,000 in the past year from his arrangement with the Chinese officer.
The judge ruled to keep Wei in federal custody without bond. If convicted, Wei could face up to life in prison.
The other sailor accused of espionage was 26-year-old Wenheng Zhao, who was based out of Naval Base Ventura County. he is accused of providing information, photos, and videos that involved Navy exercises, operations and facilities between August 2021 and May of this year.
The information that he had provided included the location and timing of naval force movements as part of a future large-scale U.S. military exercise in the Indo-Pacific region.
In return Zhao had received almost $15,000 in bribes. Similarly, if Zhao is convicted, he could also face up to life in prison.
Both sailors have pled not guilty to the charges.
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