Navy Chief Allegedly Shared Classified Information with Foreign National While Stationed in Virginia and Japan

by Braxton Taylor

A U.S. Navy sailor assigned to the USS Higgins has been charged with espionage after allegedly leaking multiple documents pertaining to national defense to a foreign national, according to a charge sheet obtained by Military.com.

Chief Petty Officer Bryce Steven Pedicini, a fire controlman, was charged in January on allegations of committing espionage in Virginia, aboard the Higgins and while in Japan, in addition to the wrongful communication of defense information and disobeying lawful orders.

“A sailor assigned to the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Higgins (DDG 76) is suspected of mishandling classified documents and information,” Cmdr. Arlo Abrahamson, a Navy spokesman for the U.S. Pacific Fleet, confirmed in an emailed statement. “The incident remains under investigation, and legal proceedings continue.”

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According to the charge sheet, Pedicini, on multiple occasions between November 2022 and May 2023, allegedly transmitted the classified material while serving in Hampton Roads, Virginia, and in Yokosuka, Japan, where the USS Higgins is based.

Hampton Roads is the home of multiple Navy bases, including Naval Air Station Oceana; Naval Shipyard Norfolk; and Joint Expeditionary Base-Little Creek, the home of SEAL Teams 2, 4 and 8.

The charges were first reported by USNI News.

The nationality of the “citizen and employee of a foreign government” Pedicini allegedly conspired with was unclear from the charge sheet. However, the document did note that the materials leaked — referred to only as Articles 1223 and 1112 — contained information “that would be used to the injury of the United States and to the advantage of a foreign nation.”

Listed on the charge sheet are seven specific allegations of espionage and one attempted incident in which Pedicini, while in Japan in May, tried to share more classified material with his unnamed contact, via pictures that included a shot of a Secret-level computer screen.

There were also seven allegations of wrongfully communicating defense-related information, and four regarding the failure to obey lawful orders and general orders, such as not reporting being solicited for classified information by an unauthorized person.

He was placed in pre-trial confinement in May 2023, according to Navy records, where he remained as of Wednesday.

Pedicini marks the third sailor in a year to face espionage-related charges. In January, Wenheng Zhao, 26 — who is also known as Thomas Zhao — was sentenced to just over two years in federal prison for transmitting sensitive U.S. military information to a Chinese intelligence officer. The petty officer second class had sent more than 50 technical and mechanical manuals for various systems of the USS Essex and similar ships to his “handler,” court documents show.

Zhao was arrested and charged in 2023 alongside Jinchao Wei, a machinist mate separately assigned to the USS Essex in San Diego. Wei was charged with four counts of conspiring and sending defense information to a foreign citizen and has yet to be sentenced, according to the Justice Department.

While court documents detail Wei and Zhao each receiving thousands of dollars for alleged actions, no such information has been made public regarding Pedicini’s case. A request for further comment from Naval Surface Forces was not returned.

Pedicini, originally from Tennessee, first enlisted in 2008. His awards include a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, three Good Conduct Medals, and two Sea Service Deployment Ribbons.

— Rachel Nostrant is a Marine Corps veteran and freelance journalist, with work published in Reuters, New York Magazine, Military Times and more.

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