A couple from Annapolis, Md., Were arrested by the FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) on Saturday on charges of espionage, federal authorities said.
According to a criminal complaint, nuclear engineer Jonathan Toebbe, who worked for the Navy, sold confidential information on the design of nuclear-powered warships. He did so with the help of his wife, Diana, 45, according to the complaint.
Jonathan Toebbe placed restricted data on SD cards and hid it in a half peanut butter sandwich, in a sealed bandage wrap, and in a packet of chewing gum, which he left at drop points in West Virginia, south-central Pennsylvania, and eastern Virginia. according to the criminal complaint.
He was selling the data to someone he thought was a representative of a foreign power not identified in the documents, but was in fact an undercover FBI agent, authorities said.
Jonathan Toebbe was assigned to the naval nuclear propulsion program, also known as naval reactors, authorities said. He had a top-secret security clearance from the US Department of Defense and an active Q clearance from the US Department of Energy (DOE), which gave him access to restricted data. DOE’s QA permission is required to access “restricted confidential data,” according to the DOE website.
On April 1, 2020, Jonathan Toebbe sent a package to a foreign government with a sample of restricted data and instructions on how to buy more, according to the affidavit of complaint. Authorities say he continued to communicate for several months with someone he believed to be with the foreign government.
The criminal complaint refers to the government with which Jonathan Toebbe believed to communicate only as a COUNTRY1.
To gain his trust, the FBI conducted an operation in the Washington, DC area over the last Memorial Day weekend that involved placing a physical signal at a location associated with the foreign government, according to the complaint.
Jonathan Toebbe then came to an agreement with the undercover agent to sell restricted data in exchange for thousands of dollars in the Monero cryptocurrency, according to the complaint.
He allegedly made “dead drops”, each about a month apart, of SD cards containing restricted data, according to the complaint. The first occurred on June 26 in West Virginia, with Diana Toebbe allegedly acting as a lookout. Other SD cards were hidden in a sealed bandage package on July 31 and a packet of chewing gum on August 28, according to the complaint.
The FBI arrested Jonathan and Diana Toebbe in Jefferson County, West Virginia on Saturday after Jonathan Toebbe placed another SD card in a pre-arranged “dead drop” elsewhere in the state, said the authorities in the criminal complaint.
“The complaint accuses a conspiracy to pass information relating to the design of our nuclear submarines to a foreign country,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement. “The work of the FBI, Department of Justice prosecutors, the Navy Criminal Investigation Service and the Department of Energy has been essential in thwarting the conspiracy accused in the complaint and in taking this first step in bringing the perpetrators to justice. in justice. “
Jonathan and Diana Toebbe face charges of alleged violations of the atomic energy law. They are scheduled to appear in federal court in Martinsburg, West Virginia on Tuesday.
It was not immediately clear whether they had a lawyer.