Wenheng Zhao, 26, who is also known as Thomas Zhao, of Monterey Park, was sentenced Monday to 27 months by a federal judge in Los Angeles. He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of receiving a bribe in violation of his official duties. He was also fined $5,500. His defense lawyer, Tarek Shawky, could not be immediately reached for comment Tuesday.
Zhao, based at Naval Base Ventura County in Port Hueneme, north of Los Angeles, collected nearly $15,000 in bribes in 14 different payments from a Chinese intelligence officer in exchange for information, photos and videos of involving Navy exercises, operations and facilities between August 2021 through at least May 2023, prosecutors said.
He held a U.S. security government clearance and underwent routine trainings on efforts by hostile nation states to acquire sensitive information, according to the U.S. Justice Department.
The information included plans for a large-scale U.S. military exercise in the Indo-Pacific region, which detailed the location and timing of naval force movements. The Chinese officer told Zhao the information was needed for maritime economic research to inform investment decisions, according to court documents.
The Chinese officer offered to pay Zhao bonuses…