NewsTeam 10 Investigates


Prosecutor: Sailor accused of espionage sent ballistic missile system info to spy

Navy chief accused of sending classified documents on Chinese, Russian threats
Posted at 6:15 PM, Apr 10, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-10 21:15:48-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — An espionage trial for a Navy chief accused of selling out the United States to a foreign spy started Wednesday.

A military court heard Chief Petty Officer Fire Controlman Bryce Pedicini was trusted with the U.S. military's most important weapons systems.

Prosecutor Leah O’Brien said Pedicini chose to abandon the Navy’s oath for his own financial gain by selling military secrets over the internet to a stranger.

“He sold out his country for his own benefit.”

O’Brien described the sailor's financial challenges that made him the “perfect target.”

She said the espionage case started when a woman reached out to Pedicini on Facebook, inviting him to write research papers. She posed as a Japanese researcher but was a spy working for a foreign government.

O’Brien said the spy, working for a nation she didn’t name, paid Pedicini $50 on PayPal to fill out a survey that asked him questions about military activities.

The spy later convinced Pedicini to send a classified document relating to a ballistic missile’s system and documents that outlined Chinese and Russian threats. Pedicini complied and negotiated a higher price for the sensitive military information, the prosecutor said.

Sailor gave 'menu' of classified info to spy: Prosecutor

He agreed to access a secure terminal at night in a locked room to obtain classified information regarding troop movement, intelligence gaps, sources and methods, and satellites.

O’Brien alleged he took his phone in the room, accessible only by a special passcode, to take photos of secure computer screens to show what he could steal.

The prosecutor said the woman got a “menu” of classified information and gave Pedicini an “order” of what she wanted. O’Brien said she encouraged him to send secret documents in exchange for extra money.

The spy told him not to use WI-FI on the ship or any scanning apps and warned him to go far from the base to send the documents. She gave him a special website where he could upload the photos, court heard.

Encrypted messages retrieved 

In total, Pedicini got over $1,000 from the woman for the initial documents he sent. PayPal transactions, along with bank records from Navy Federal Credit Union, are expected to be admitted as evidence.

An NCIS digital forensics expert testified she was able to retrieve encrypted messages Pedicini had on the Telegram app on his phone in addition to the contents of his laptop, which had the classified information.

China likely behind compromise: expert

Pedicini started the day by admitting he took his personal Samsung cellphone into a secure area on a barge in May last year while assigned to the USS Higgins missile destroyer in Japan last year. But he didn’t elaborate on why he did that. Instead, he testified “he had a reason,” and told the judge it wasn’t a mistake.

He is fighting the three other espionage-related charges he is facing. Pedicini appeared calm in court throughout the day, even smiling and laughing at points. His wife was seated behind him nearby in the gallery.

National security expert Ron Bee said the government will use this case as a deterrent.

“They're going to try hard to convict him and throw the book at him and put him away for life.”

He believes China was likely the country the spy was working for.

“Let's remember that the USS Higgins in 2022 crossed through the Taiwan Straits so do you think that China might be interested in what that particular missile destroyer has on board since it went right by their coastline, I have a feeling that that's what this is about.”

Pedicini’s military-appointed defense attorney told Team 10 he was unable to comment on the case because he is on active duty. A military judge is hearing the case.