A San Diego-based Navy sailor recently charged with selling military secrets to China was allegedly encouraged by his mother to continue the illegal scheme, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Fred Sheppard.
Jinchao Wei, 22, born in China and one of two United States Navy sailors arrested for the alleged offense, appeared before a judge on Tuesday and was denied bail due to being deemed a flight risk by prosecutors.
Sheppard argued that Wei is a danger both to the public based on information he allegedly provided as well as the thousands of sailors who are aboard ships that could be impacted by his actions.
The intelligence officer reportedly asked Wei in February 2022 for sensitive military information while applying for U.S citizenship at the same time.
Wei, an active-duty sailor serving as a machinist’s mate on the U.S.S. Essex stationed at Naval Base San Diego, was arrested last week and now faces espionage charges with the possibility of life in prison.
According to the Department of Justice, Wei allegedly used his security clearance and access to sensitive defense information to provide Chinese intelligence officers with details about the U.S.S. Essex and other ships.
During Christmas, Wei’s mother – who was unnamed – encouraged her son to continue selling information to China due to possible future job opportunities with the Chinese government; Sheppard reported this comment made by Wei’s mother in court.
“Specifically, the Chinese intelligence officer tasked Wei with passing him photos, videos and documents concerning U.S. Navy ships and their systems. The two agreed to hide their communications by deleting records of their conversations and using encrypted methods of communication,” the DOJ stated in a press release.
Wei was accused of providing the intelligence officer with information about defensive weapons, as well as 60 technical and mechanical manuals for systems aboard Navy ships. Additionally, the sailor allegedly disclosed the locations of various ships.
“In June 2022, the intelligence officer requested that Wei provide information about the number and training of U.S. Marines during an upcoming international maritime warfare exercise. In response to this request, Wei sent multiple photographs of military equipment to the intelligence officer,” the DOJ reported.
Officials have estimated that Wei may have earned between $10,000 and $15,000 for selling sensitive defense information to a Chinese intelligence officer. It remains uncertain, however, what the exact figure was.