The Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested a Maryland couple on Saturday for attempting to sell “restricted data” on the design of nuclear-powered warships, the Justice Department reported.
Jonathan Toebbe, 42, is a nuclear engineer at the Department of the Navy. For almost an entire year, he and his wife, Diana, 45, sold information to a person they believed was a representative for another nation, who turned out to be an undercover FBI agent, according to the Department of Justice.
“The complaint charges a plot to transmit information relating to the design of our nuclear submarines to a foreign nation,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “The work of the FBI, Department of Justice prosecutors, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Department of Energy was critical in thwarting the plot charged in the complaint and taking this first step in bringing the perpetrators to justice.”
Jonathan Toebbe sent a package to the undercover FBI agent containing a sample of “restricted data” in April 2020. Also included in the package were instructions for establishing a covert relationship to purchase additional information. Toebbe began corresponding with the FBI agent, whom he believed to be a foreign representative, through encrypted email, the DOJ reported.
Toebbe continued this correspondence for several months and made an agreement to sell “restricted data” in exchange for thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency.
On Jun. 8, the undercover agent sent $10,000 in cryptocurrency to Toebbe as a “good faith” payment. Shortly after, Toebbe and his wife traveled to a location in West Virginia, where they placed an SD card concealed within half a peanut butter sandwich at a pre-arranged “dead drop” location for the “representative” to recover, according to the DOJ.
The couple and the FBI agent repeated this process two more times, the first on Aug. 28 and again on Oct. 9. Each time the couple would receive a “good faith” payment and then deliver an SD card to a location in West Virginia, with the FBI agent recovering it and paying the couple more money for an access key to decrypt the SD card.
On their third visit to West Virginia, however, the FBI arrested the couple, the DOJ reported.
The Toebbes have been charged in a criminal complaint alleging violations of the Atomic Energy Act. They will have their initial appearances on Oct. 12, in federal court in Martinsburg, West Virginia, per the DOJ.
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Original Author: Asher Notheis