A Maryland Navy nuclear engineer and his wife were arrested and charged with espionage after getting caught trying to sell nuclear submarine technology to a foreign power.
Jonathan Toebbe, 42, and his wife Diana, 45, both of Annapolis, were arrested on Saturday and charged with violations of the Atomic Energy Act.
According to the criminal complaint unsealed on Sunday, Jonathan Toebbe sent a package of sensitive Navy documents known as “Restricted Data concerning the design of nuclear-powered warships to an individual he believed was a representative of a foreign power. In actuality, that person was an undercover FBI agent.” the DOJ announced.
“Jonathan Toebbe is an employee of the Department of the Navy who served as a nuclear engineer and was assigned to the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, also known as Naval Reactors. He held an active national security clearance through the U.S. Department of Defense, giving him access to Restricted Data. Toebbe worked with and had access to information concerning naval nuclear propulsion including information related to military sensitive design elements, operating parameters and performance characteristics of the reactors for nuclear powered warships.” the DOJ said.
Toebbe sent a package to the under cover FBI agent on April 1, 2020 containing a sample of the “Restricted Data” along with instructions on establishing a relationship in order to purchase more sensitive information.
Toebbe communicated with the under cover fed via encrypted email for several months which eventually led to an agreement to sell the submarine technology for thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency.
“On June 8, 2021, the undercover agent sent $10,000 in cryptocurrency to Jonathan Toebbe as “good faith” payment. Shortly afterwards, on June 26, Jonathan and Diana Toebbe traveled to a location in West Virginia.” the criminal complaint said.
Jonathan Toebbe’s wife acted as a lookout as her husband placed an SD card inside of a peanut butter sandwich at a “dead drop” location.
The under cover agent picked up the SD card and sent Jonathan Toebbe $20,000 in cryptocurrency – in return, Teobbe sent the fed 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 Aug. 28, 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 criminal complaint said.
The Teobbes were arrested on Saturday and will appear in federal court in Martinsburg, West Virginia on Tuesday.