A Maryland nuclear engineer and his spouse have been arrested and charged with espionage for making an attempt to promote categorised data on US nuclear submarines to a international energy. Their scheme was foiled in an FBI sting operation.
Jonathan and Diana Toebbe, of Annapolis, Maryland, have been arrested in Jefferson County, West Virginia, by the FBI and the Naval Felony Investigative Service on Saturday, in line with a Justice Division press launch.
The pair are accused of promoting “restricted knowledge in regards to the design of nuclear-powered warships” over the course of a yr to an individual they assumed was the consultant of a international energy. That particular person was, in reality, an undercover FBI agent.
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An worker of the US Navy, Jonathan Toebbe labored within the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, and had safety clearance to entry restricted knowledge on the design of nuclear submarines and their reactors. Again in April 2020, he allegedly despatched a pattern of this restricted knowledge to a international authorities, together with a letter studying: “Please ahead this letter to your army intelligence company. I imagine this data can be of nice worth to your nation. This isn’t a hoax.”
Toobe wrote that “the data was slowly and punctiliously collected over a number of years within the regular course of my job to keep away from attracting consideration, and smuggled previous safety checkpoints a number of pages at a time,” in line with courtroom paperwork.
The nation in query was not named by the Justice Division, however the letter was intercepted by or given to the FBI earlier than it reached its vacation spot. An secret agent bought in contact with Toebbe, and the pair organized a deal whereby Toebbe would hand over additional knowledge in change for funds in cryptocurrency.
The agent despatched Toebbe $10,000 in cryptocurrency this June. Shortly afterwards, Toebbe and his spouse allegedly traveled to a pre-arranged ‘useless drop’ in West Virginia, the place the engineer’s spouse acted as a lookout whereas Toebbe positioned an SD card inside a peanut butter sandwich for the agent to gather. He then despatched an encryption key for the SD card in change for an additional $20,000, and the FBI was in a position to confirm that the cardboard certainly contained “restricted knowledge associated to submarine nuclear reactors.”
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One other profitable fee and drop adopted, however the Toebbes have been arrested in West Virginia on Saturday, as they tried a 3rd change.
All through their months of correspondence, Toebbe was initially distrustful of the agent, and hesitated to fulfill his contact in case he walked right into a entice. The agent was in a position to win him over by persuasion, and by arranging a “sign” from the international nation’s embassy over the Memorial Day weekend. It was not revealed what kind this sign took, or how the FBI organized it with the nation in query.
Toobe appeared to have a romantic imaginative and prescient of promoting state secrets and techniques. Discussing how he and his spouse may finally need to flee the US, he instructed the agent, “At some point, when it’s secure, maybe two previous associates can have an opportunity to stumble into one another at a café, share a bottle of wine, and snigger over tales of their shared exploits.”
The couple have been charged with two espionage-related offenses: Conspiracy to Talk Restricted Knowledge, and Communication of Restricted Knowledge. Each offenses carry open-ended sentences.
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