A husband and wife from Maryland have been arrested for allegedly trying to pass on secrets from U.S. nuclear submarine technology to a foreign power, the Department of Justice announced Sunday.
Jonathan Toebbe, 42, and Diana Toebbe, 45, were arrested in West Virginia on Sunday for allegedly trying to sell restricted data to someone Jonathan believed worked for a foreign power. But according to the DOJ, Jonathan Toebbe and his wife were actually trying to sell the data to an undercover agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“The complaint charges a plot to transmit information relating to the design of our nuclear submarines to a foreign nation,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland in a statement. “The work of the FBI, Department of Justice prosecutors, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and the Department of Energy was critical in thwarting the plot charged in the complaint and taking this first step in bringing the perpetrators to justice.”
According to The Washington Post, FBI agents posed as foreign spies after Toebbe sent out a package suggesting that he was willing to offer Navy secrets. The Associated Press reports that the package contained a letter that read: “I apologize for this poor translation into your language. Please forward this letter to your military intelligence agency. I believe this information will be of great value to your nation. This is not a hoax.”
It’s unclear how the FBI got ahold of the package, but the FBI agents gained Toebbe’s trust over the course of a year, in part, reports the Post, by paying him and by arranging a covert signal out of the Washington, D.C.-based embassy of the government Teobbe thought he was speaking with. It’s also not clear how the signal was arranged, or which country’s embassy it was.
On June 8, 2021, the undercover agent sent $10,000 in cryptocurrency to Jonathan Toebbe as “good faith” payment. Shortly afterwards, on June 26, 2021, Jonathan and Diana Toebbe traveled to a location in West Virginia. There, with Diana Toebbe acting as a lookout, Jonathan Toebbe placed an SD card concealed within half a peanut butter sandwich at a pre-arranged “dead drop” location. After retrieving the SD card, the undercover agent sent Jonathan Toebbe a $20,000 cryptocurrency payment. In return, Jonathan Toebbe emailed the undercover agent a decryption key for the SD Card. A review of the SD card revealed that it contained Restricted Data related to submarine nuclear reactors. On August 28, 2021, Jonathan Toebbe made another “dead drop” of an SD card in eastern Virginia, this time concealing the card in a chewing gum package. After making a payment to Toebbe of $70,000 in cryptocurrency, the FBI received a decryption key for the card. It, too, contained Restricted Data related to submarine nuclear reactors. The FBI arrested Jonathan and Diana Toebbe on October 9, after he placed yet another SD card at a pre-arranged “dead drop” at a second location in West Virginia.
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