U.S. Arrests Couple on Spy Charges to Sell Nuclear-Sub Data
(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. arrested a Navy Department employee and his wife on spying-related charges after they allegedly sold restricted data on nuclear-powered submarines to an FBI agent posing as a foreign official.
Jonathan Toebbe, 42, and his wife Diana, 45, were ensnared in an investigation involving cryptocurrency payments, encrypted emails and a “dead drop” in West Virginia of a memory card hidden in a peanut butter sandwich, the Justice Department said in a statement on Sunday.
Jonathan Toebbe, a nuclear engineer assigned to the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, set the probe in motion by sending a package in April 2020 to a foreign government, with a sample of restricted data and an offer to sell them more, according to the statement.
The package’s contents were obtained in December by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s attache in the foreign country, according to the government’s criminal complaint, which didn’t identify the country.
Toebbe allegedly had access to information on naval nuclear propulsion, including militarily sensitive design elements, operating parameters and performance characteristics of reactors for nuclear-powered warships. Materials he provided to the undercover agent include schematic designs for the Virginia-class submarine, according to the complaint.
Over several months, the undercover agent sent a total of $100,000 in cryptocurrency to Toebbe, who dropped off two SD cards containing restricted data related to submarine nuclear reactors, according to the DOJ.
The FBI arrested the couple on Saturday after Jonathan Toebbe placed another SD card at a “dead drop” in West Virginia. The suspects, both of Annapolis, Maryland, are charged with espionage-related offenses under the U.S. Atomic Energy Act.
According to a message attributed to Jonathan Toebbe that the FBI received on one SD card, he had collected almost 8,000 pages of material and more than 3,000 additional sheets with information such as schematics and drawings, according to the complaint.
“I was extremely careful to gather the files I possess slowly and naturally in the routine of my job, so nobody would suspect my plan,” he was quoted as saying in another message. “We received training on warning signs to spot insider threats.”
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