Chinese man arrested by FBI for trespassing on Navy base, taking pictures

(U.S. Navy photo by Trice Denny/Released)

A Chinese national walked into a restricted area in Key West, Florida, illegally snapping photos of a US Naval defense installation before police took him into custody.

While 20-year-old Zhao Qianli was arrested in late September by Key West police for trespassing and sentenced to only sixty days in jail, he’s now facing recently-filed federal charges of of photographing defense installations and entering military, naval or Coast Guard property.

If convicted of all charges, he could face up to 1.5 years in prison.

Zhao told police he was a “dishwasher from New Jersey” when they cornered him on September 26 for taking pictures of NAS Key West, claiming he was lost.

According to the Miami Herald, witnesses saw him go around the fence at the NAS Key West Truman Annex, walking into the facility from the beach.

The area is clearly marked with signs that designate the NAS a military installation and a restricted area, making trespassing was a clear violation.

“The fence line Zhao Qianli circumvented had numerous warnings that noted the fenced facility was a “military installation” and “Restricted Area’‘ warning signs posted on the beach,” an FBI complaint reads.

Zhao spent several minutes taking pictures of buildings and an antenna field with his phone and standalone digital camera.

While Zhao only speaks broken English and his attorney claims he could not have known the area was restricted, the Navy isn’t buying it.

“These security measures that we have in place, which are random, they work obviously because we caught the guy,” said Trice Denny, spokeswoman for Naval Air Station Key West.

While records show Zhao had entered the US legally, his visa expired around a week before he was arrested.

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