US accuses naval engineer and his wife of allegedly trying to share military secrets

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WASHINGTON – A US Navy employee and his wife have been accused of trying to share secrets about nuclear submarine technology with a foreign country, according to court documents released Sunday.

The documents name employee Jonathan Toebbe and his wife Diana Toebbe. Mr Toebbe is a nuclear engineer, holds top-secret clearance from the Defense Ministry and has worked for the government for nearly a decade, the documents show.

The Toebbes could not immediately be reached for comment. The Navy declined to comment.

The documents allege that in April 2020, Mr. Toebbe sent a postal package containing US Navy documents, instructions and an SD card to a foreign government. The FBI obtained the package in December 2020, according to court documents.

The foreign country is not named in court documents. It was not immediately possible to determine whether he was a friend or an American rival.

The package included advice on how to use an encrypted communication platform, as well as other materials. Mr. Toebbe marked the information as confidential and requested that it be passed to the other country’s military agency, according to the documents.

“I think this information will be of great value to your nation,” he said in the letter, according to court documents.

It was dated April 1, 2020, April Fool’s Day. “This is not a hoax,” he added in his note.

The documents contained information classified as restricted data, according to a US Navy expert consulted by the FBI.

The encrypted platform Mr Toebbe wanted to use is typically used by people who wish to keep their activities and locations secret, the FBI said in the documents.

An FBI agent who intercepted the mail began to correspond with Mr. Toebbe, posing as a representative of the foreign country. The FBI offered Mr Toebbe a gift in exchange for the data, but he declined to meet due to the risks inherent in a face-to-face meeting, the documents said.

Mr Toebbe instead offered a cryptocurrency payment, suggesting an upfront payment of $ 100,000 to prove their seriousness before providing a link to secret documents.

“Please remember that I am risking my life for your good,” he said, according to court documents.

The FBI and Mr. Toebbe in other exchanges discussed how the payment and delivery of documents could happen. Eventually, the FBI paid Mr. Toebbe $ 10,000 in cryptocurrency under a pseudonym as proof of good faith, according to court documents.

Mr Toebbe went ahead with a fatal fall of documents in West Virginia, where he was observed by the FBI, according to the documents. His wife was with him, according to court records. The data drop was effected by the SD card left in a peanut butter sandwich.

The contents of the card were reviewed by a Navy subject matter expert, who determined that it contained militarily sensitive details about the Virginia-class submarine reactors.

Further exchanges were coordinated between Mr. Toebbe and FBI agents posing as officials of a foreign country. In total, the FBI paid Mr. Toebbe $ 100,000 in August 2021, according to the documents. It could not be determined if the FBI recovered the money.

The Toebbes were arrested in Jefferson County, W.Va., on Saturday by the FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. They will appear for the first time in federal court on Tuesday, the Justice Department said.

Write to Jessica Donati at [email protected]

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