A current U.S. Navy engineer and his wife were charged with sending restricted naval data internationally, with the intention of selling it, court records unsealed over the weekend show.
Jonathan Toebbe and his wife, Diana Toebbe, allegedly communicated through encryption services with an undercover FBI agent and attempted to sell submarine data that was restricted, according to a criminal complaint.
The FBI were brought into the case from the beginning, court documents say.
Starting in December 2020, an unspecified country received a package from the United States, containing U.S. Navy documents as well as an SD disc and a letter explaining that it was not a hoax, the FBI says.
"Please forward this letter to your military intelligence agency. I believe this information will be of great value to your nation," the letter in the package allegedly said. "This is not a hoax."
They turned it over to the FBI legal attaché in the country, and FBI began to communicate through encrypted email, according to the complaint. Allegedly on the other side of that encrypted email was Jonathan Toebbe.
The FBI alleges he asked to be compensated in cryptocurrency writing in an email that, "Face to face meetings are very risky for me, as I am sure you understand. I propose exchanging gifts electronically, for mutual safety."
An undercover FBI agent whom he was communicating with was posing as a representative of a foreign country, and allegedly suggested a drop location for him to drop off sensitive information, according to the complaint.
Court documents say Toebbe asked for a signal to be placed in the country's main building as a sign of good faith while he visited Washington, D.C., which the FBI placed, and as a sign of good faith, paid Toebbe $10,000 in cryptocurrency.
After the exchange, the government alleges Teobbe dropped sensitive documents in West Virginia, while his wife allegedly acted as a lookout.
"Records show that JONATHAN TOEBBE is a government employee working as a nuclear engineer for the United States Navy and holds an active Top Secret Security Clearance through the United States Department of Defense and an active Q clearance from the United States Department of Energy," the documents state.
The government alleges that Toebbe put an SD card containing restricted naval data inside a peanut butter sandwich.
"Specifically, the U.S. Navy subject matter expert determined that several of the documents contained militarily sensitive design elements, operating parameters, and performance characteristics of Virginia-class submarine reactors," court documents state.
In total, Toebbe allegedly received $100,000 for dropping off restricted data.
He allegedly conducted three drop-offs.
"The U.S. Navy subject matter expert determined that multiple documents on the SD card contained Restricted Data. Specifically, the U.S. Navy subject matter expert determined that the document contained schematic designs for the Virginia-class submarine. Virginia-class submarines are nuclear-powered cruise missile fastattack submarines, which incorporate the latest in stealth, intelligence gathering, and weapons systems technology," the documents say. "Virginia-class submarines, with a per unit cost of approximately $3 billion, are currently in service with the United States Navy and are expected to remain in service until at least 2060."
The Toebbes were arrested in Jefferson County, West Virginia, by the FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) Saturday. They will appear in federal court in Martinsburg, West Virginia, on Tuesday. They have been charged in a criminal complaint alleging violations of the Atomic Energy Act.
US Navy engineer and wife allegedly tried to sell nuclear submarine secrets originally appeared on abcnews.go.com