The guided-missile destroyer USS Higgins steams through the Philippine Sea, March 25, 2024.

The guided-missile destroyer USS Higgins steams through the Philippine Sea, March 25, 2024. (Samantha Oblander/U.S. Navy)

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — A court-martial for a chief petty officer accused of espionage began this week at Naval Station San Diego, a Navy spokesman said.

Chief Petty Officer Bryce Steven Pedicini is standing trial on charges he passed classified information to an unidentified foreign government.

The fire controlman was assigned to the Yokosuka-based guided-missile destroyer USS Higgins at the time of the alleged espionage.

Prosecutor Leah O’Brien in court said Pedicini was motivated by financial gain to sell military secrets over the internet to a stranger, and his financial challenges made him a “perfect target,” according to a KGTV Channel 10 News report Thursday.

The case began when a woman posing as a Japanese researcher contacted Pedicini on Facebook, inviting him to write research papers, O’Brien said, according to KGTV.

The woman eventually convinced Pedicini to send classified information on a ballistic missile system and documents that outlined Chinese and Russian threats, O’Brien said. Pedicini first received $50 for filling out a survey and $1,000 for the initial documents, the prosecutor said, according to KGTV.

The court-martial began Tuesday and is scheduled to run through April 19, Naval Surface Forces Pacific spokesman Cmdr. Arlo Abrahamson said by email Wednesday morning.

Pedicini opted for a bench trial, with a judge alone, rather than a military jury, Abrahamson said. He declined further comment.

Pedicini is accused of handing off at least seven pieces of national defense information to an unidentified foreign national between November 2022 and February 2023 near Hampton Roads, Va., according to his charge sheet.

Seven pieces of information were identified as documents with titles such as “Article 1112” or “1223 Updates,” but they allegedly contained information related to national defense.

Hampton Roads is home to major military installations and commands, including Naval Station Norfolk, Norfolk Naval Shipyard and Langley Air Force Base.

Authorities allege Pedicini also attempted to hand over photographs of a computer screen connected to the Defense Department’s network used to transmit classified information.

The Navy says that attempt took place at Yokosuka in May.

Pedicini had reason to believe those documents and pictures “would be used to the injury of the United States and to the advantage of a foreign nation,” according to the charge sheet.

The document refers to the recipient or recipients only as a “citizen and employee of a foreign government.”

As a fire controlman, Pedicini would have worked with “everything from radars, fire control systems and computer systems to the Navy’s most advanced missile system, Aegis,” which is used aboard guided-missile destroyers and cruisers, according to the Navy’s description of the job.

Pedicini enlisted in January 2008 and served aboard the guided-missile destroyers USS Curtis Wilbur and USS McFaul, according to a biography provided by Abrahamson.

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Alex Wilson covers the U.S. Navy and other services from Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan. Originally from Knoxville, Tenn., he holds a journalism degree from the University of North Florida. He previously covered crime and the military in Key West, Fla., and business in Jacksonville, Fla.

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