Washington – A Navy engineer and his wife were arrested on charges of selling restricted information about the design of US nuclear submarines to an alleged representative of a “foreign power” who was actually an undercover FBI agent, reported this Sunday the Justice Department (DOJ, in English).
Jonathan Toebbe, 42, and his wife, Diana (45), were arrested on Saturday in Jefferson County, in the state of West Virginia, by the FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigation Service, after being accused in a complaint. criminal for having violated the Atomic Energy Law, the DOJ said in a statement.
US Attorney General Merrick Garland said in the statement that the complaint alleges a “plot to transmit information related to the design” of US nuclear submarines to a foreign nation.
The United States Atomic Energy Act defines “restricted data” as those related to the “design, manufacture, or use of atomic weapons,” the production of special nuclear material, and the use of special nuclear material in energy production.
Toebbe and his wife have been charged with conspiracy to communicate restricted data and communication of restricted data.
According to the DOJ, Toebbe, a Navy nuclear engineer assigned to the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, had a national security clearance that gave him access to “restricted data.”
Specifically, the defendant worked and had access to information related to naval propulsion, among which military elements of sensitive design, operating parameters and performance characteristics of the reactors for nuclear-powered submarines stand out.
The indictment indicated that on April 1, 2020, Toebbe sent a package to a foreign government, with a return address in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, containing a sample of “restricted data” and instructions to establish a covert communication for the purchase. for more information.
The engineer has since maintained an encrypted email exchange with a person he believed represented a foreign government who turned out to be an FBI agent, leading to a deal to sell information in exchange for thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency.
The undercover agent sent Toebbe a “good faith” payment of $ 10,000 in cryptocurrency on June 8, and on the 26th of that month Jonathan and Diana Toebbe traveled to West Virginia to leave a memory card camouflaged in an established location. half of a peanut butter sandwich.
The woman apparently acted as a “lookout,” detailed the DOJ.
After receiving the card, the agent made another payment of $ 20,000 to obtain, via email, a password to access the information.
Another card, this time hidden in a pack of gum, was left on August 28 by Toebbe, who received $ 70,000 to disclose the key.
This Saturday, the couple was taken into custody after placing another card at a concealed location in West Virginia. Both will have their first appearance on Tuesday in court in Martinsburg, in that state.
According to The Washington Post, the data related to the Virginia nuclear attack submarines, which have been in service with the US Navy since 2004 and were designed to replace the previous Seawolf class.