A US Navy engineer and his wife were arrested on charges of sell restricted information on nuclear submarine design from the United States to an alleged representative of a “foreign power” who was actually an undercover agent of the FBI, reported this Sunday the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Jonathan Toebbe, 42 years old, and his wife, Diana Toebbe (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 criminal complaint of having violated the Atomic Energy Law, the DOJ said in a statement.
The United States Attorney General, Merrick Garland, said in the statement that the complaint alleges a “plot to transmit information related to the design” of nuclear submarines Americans to a foreign nation.
The United States Atomic Energy Act defines as “restricted data” 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 the production of energy.
Toebbe and his wife have been charged with conspiracy to communicate restricted data and communication of restricted data.
Access to restricted data
According to the DOJ, Toebbe, a Navy nuclear engineer assigned to the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, had a national security clearance which gave him access to “restricted data”.
Specifically, the accused worked and had access to information related to the naval propulsion, Among which are military elements of sensitive design, operational parameters and performance characteristics of reactors for nuclear-powered submarines.
The prosecution stated that on April 1, 2020, Toebbe sent a package to a foreign government, with a return address in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which contained a sample of “restricted data” and instructions to establish a covert communication for the purchase of more information.
Since then, the engineer had an encrypted email exchange with a person he believed represented a foreign government and who turned out to be an FBI agent, leading to an agreement to sell information in exchange for thousands of dollars in cryptocurrencies.
Like in a spy movie
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 drop off at an established location. a memory card camouflaged in the middle of a sandwich of peanut butter. The woman apparently acted as a “lookout,” the DOJ said.
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, it was dropped off on August 28 by Toebbe, who received $ 70,000 to disclose the key.
This Saturday, the couple went stopped after inserting another card at a hidden spot in West Virginia. Both will have their first appearance on Tuesday in court in Martinsburg, in that state.
According to the newspaper The Washington Post, the data were related to nuclear attack submarines Virginia, that have served in the US Navy since 2004 and were designed to replace the previous class Seawolf (Sea Wolf).