Tugboats guide the guided-missile destroyer USS Higgins to a berth at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, Oct. 13, 2023.

Tugboats guide the guided-missile destroyer USS Higgins to a berth at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, Oct. 13, 2023. (Taylor Ardito/U.S. Navy)

A sailor accused of giving classified information to an unidentified foreign government was convicted Friday during a general court-martial at Naval Station San Diego.

Chief Petty Officer Bryce Pedicini, a fire controlman who had been assigned to the Japan-based guided-missile destroyer USS Higgins, was found guilty of attempted espionage, failure to obey a lawful order and attempted violation of a lawful general order, according to a statement from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

“This guilty verdict holds Mr. Pedicini to account for his betrayal of his country and fellow service members,” NCIS director Omar Lopez said in the statement. “Adversaries of the United States are unrelenting in their attempts to degrade our military superiority.”

Pedicini pleaded guilty to a charge related to taking a personal phone into a secure room, but contested the espionage charges, San Diego’s ABC 10 News reported Tuesday.

Pedicini’s sentencing hearing by a military judge is scheduled for May 7, the statement said.

Court records show that an unidentified person posing as a Japanese defense researcher first contacted Pedicini through Facebook Messenger on Oct. 24, 2022, offering money in exchange for details about U.S. military “capabilities and strategies in the region.”

As a fire controlman, Pedicini 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.

Posing as a defense researcher is a tactic “increasingly used by foreign adversaries to obtain classified and unclassified national defense information,” the NCIS statement said.

Court records and the NCIS statement refer to the adversary only as a “citizen and employee of a foreign government.” ABC 10 News identified the individual as a woman in an April 11 report, citing Prosecutor Leah O’Brien’s statements in court.

She convinced Pedicini to send classified information on a ballistic missile system and documents that outlined Chinese and Russian threats, O’Brien said at the court-martial. The sailor first received $50 for filling out a survey and then $1,000 for the initial documents, according to ABC 10 News

The woman told Pedicini she would send him more money “based on the value and sensitivity of the information” and specifically asked for classified information, according to court records provided by the Office of the Judge Advocate General.

Pedicini ultimately handed over at least seven documents, identified as “white papers” in court records between November 2022 and February 2023 via Facebook messenger and other electronic means, including the encrypted instant-messaging service Telegram.

In May, Pedicini sent photographs of material accessed through a computer screen connected to a Defense Department network used to transmit classified information.

NCIS detained Pedicini on May 19 and interrogated him, according to the records. He said he wrote opinion articles for the woman sourced from Wikipedia and Google.

Pedicini’s defense attorneys during the court-martial said he copied and pasted information from Google, but prosecutors said he used a burner phone and Telegram to hide his actions, ABC 10 News reported.

“Although the overwhelming majority of Department of the Navy service members are honorable and faithful public servants, NCIS stands ready to expose those who are not,” Lopez said in the statement.

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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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