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Jinchao Wei, US Navy Sailor (Espionage, 2022 - 2023)

Updated: Mar 7

In early August 2023, Chinese national Jinchao Wei, (AKA Patrick Wei), was indicted on allegations of transmitting defense information to support a foreign government, unlawfully exporting defense articles without a license, and two counts of conspiracy.

Wei's purported criminal activities occurred during his tenure in the United States Navy as a Machinist’s Mate stationed aboard the U.S.S. Essex (LHD) at Naval Base San Diego.


In February 2022, a PRC intelligence officer (IO) approached Wei with an offer to work as an informant in exchange for cash. During this period, Wei was actively pursuing US citizenship.


Over the next 18 months until August 2023, Wei maintained communication with the PRC intelligence officer, utilizing his position and Secret level security clearance to provide photos, videos, documents, and over 50 technical and mechanical manuals related to U.S. Navy ships and their systems. At the intelligence officer's request, Wei disclosed the locations of various Navy ships and provided detailed descriptions of defensive weapons onboard the Essex.


Tradecraft

The PRC IO tasked Wei with specific intelligence collection priorities.

The PRC IO directed Wei to film blueprints and take photos of equipment with a cellphone.

The two communicated using multiple internet-based encryption methods (NFI).  

The PRC intelligence officer instructed Wei not to talk about their relationship and to destroy evidence of their communication and activities.

 Wei allegedly told a fellow sailor he was being recruited by an intelligence agency for "quite obviously espionage,.  

The PRC Intelligence Officer offered to bring Wei and his mother for a visit to China.

Wei's mother encouraged him to spy for China telling him it could lead to a good job there.

The PRC IO paid Wei between $10,000 and $15,000, although the exact means of transmission is unknown.


By Marguerite Eftimiades



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