A Navy engineer and his wife have been arrested in connection with a plot to allegedly pass on sensitive information about the design of US nuclear submarines to a person they thought was a foreign agent.
Jonathan Toebbe, 42, and his wife, Diana Toebbe, 45, were arrested in West Virginia after selling restricted information for over a year to the individual who was actually an undercover FBI agent, the Justice Department alleged on Sunday. They have been charged with violating the Atomic Energy Act.
“The complaint charges a plot to transmit information relating to the design of our nuclear submarines to a foreign nation,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.
“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,” the top US law enforcement official said.
According to court documents unsealed on Sunday, Jonathan Toebbe, who held an active national security clearance, sent a package to a foreign government in April 2020 that contained a sample of restricted information and an offer to supply more, and then began to communicate via encrypted email to the undercover FBI agent.
The correspondence continued for months, and Toebbe allegedly agreed to a deal to sell restricted data in exchange for thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency.
On June 8, 2021 the agent sent $10,000 in cryptocurrency to Jonathan Toebbe as a "good faith" payment, and two weeks later Toebbe traveled to West Virginia where he left an SD card at a "dead drop" location with his wife serving as a lookout, according to the Justice Department.
Following a payment of $20,000 Toebbe passed on a decryption key to the agent, which unlocked the drive and allowed the officer to determine it contained restricted data related to submarine nuclear reactors, the Justice Department said.
He was arrested Oct. 9 after attempting to carry out another "dead drop" in West Virginia.
An initial court appearance has been scheduled for Tuesday in Martinsburg, West Virginia.