Japan-Based Chief Petty Officer Found Guilty of Attempted Espionage

April 21, 2024 6:44 PM
Sailors aboard Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Higgins (DDG-76) arrive in Hawaii. US Navy Photo

A sailor assigned to a Japan-based guided-missile destroyer who was accused of providing classified information to a foreign government official was found guilty Friday of attempted espionage and other related charges, the Navy said.
Chief Petty Officer Fire Controlman Bryce S. Pedicini, who had been assigned to the USS Higgins (DDG-76) before his arrest on May 19, 2023, in Japan, will be sentenced by a military judge at a May 7 court hearing, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service said in a news release announcing the verdict. Pedicini had been held in pretrial detention since his arrest.

Pedicini, whose case was tried at a general court-martial, was found guilty of attempted espionage (Article 103a of the Uniform Code of Military Justice), failure to obey a lawful order (Article 92), and attempted violation of a lawful general order (Article 80), according to NCIS.

Online court records show Pedicini was initially charged with eight counts of espionage and attempted espionage under Article 103a and seven counts related to conduct under Article 134.

There are no maximum or minimum sentencing terms for a service member convicted of attempted espionage, as UCMJ allows for “any punishment, other than death, that a court-martial may direct.”

Bryce Pedicini

“This guilty verdict holds Mr. Pedicini accountable for his betrayal of his country and fellow service members,” NCIS Director Omar Lopez said in the release. “Adversaries of the United States are unrelenting in their attempts to degrade our military superiority. Nevertheless, the American public should be confident knowing that NCIS will also not relent in our mission to deter, disrupt, and defeat the ongoing threat from foreign intelligence entities. 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.”

Pedicini had also been charged with failing to report foreign contacts to his chain of command, failing to report solicitation of classified information, taking a personal device into a secure room, and transporting classified information, USNI News reported in January after the U.S. Naval Surface Force commander referred the case to trial following an Article 32 preliminary investigation.

Pedicini, a native of Tennessee, enlisted in 2008 and had served on the destroyers USS McFaul (DDG-74) and USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG-54) before reporting to Higgins, according to his Navy bio.

Prosecutors contended in a March 15 filing that an unnamed foreign government employee contacted Pedicini via Facebook Messenger and stated he or she was a defense researcher who offered him money in exchange for information about the U.S. military capabilities and strategies in the (redacted) region.

Starting in November 2022 and continuing into May 2023 in the Hampton Roads, Va., area, the government alleged, Pedicini sent various documents through Facebook Messenger and other electronic means, including Signal and Telegram, and in May 2023 sent photographs he accessed via a classified SIPR terminal. At one point, that contact sent him a reportedly “secret” document “as an example” of documents they sought from him, a point his defense attorneys later argued was “inflammatory evidence” but not a wrongful act.

It’s unclear from the limited documents available online just who the person who communicated with Pedicini was, although the person claimed “they represented a Japanese research group,” according to a March 8 defense motion. In February, prosecutors had asked for information from unspecified government agencies that were listed in a “secret” document filed with the court.

In March, the government denied requests by Pedicini’s attorney had first requested in December to produce that contact as a witness for trial, which the defense attorney contended their testimony “is central to FCAC Pedicini’s defense to the allegations against him.”

In a filing earlier this month, government prosecutors alleged the chief had received money paid via PayPal to his credit union account. “In exchange for national defense information, the accused sought and received monetary payment from Individual #1,” the document stated. Available court records don’t state how much money he had received.


Gidget Fuentes

Gidget Fuentes

Gidget Fuentes is a freelance writer based in San Diego, Calif. She has spent more than 20 years reporting extensively on the Marine Corps and the Navy, including West Coast commands and Pacific regional issues.

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