Former US Navy engineer, wife face trial in spy case

Jan Wolfe, Reuters

Posted at Oct 12 2021 06:23 PM

WASHINGTON - A former US Navy nuclear engineer and his wife on Tuesday are scheduled to face their first court hearing on Tuesday on charges they attempted to sell secrets about nuclear submarines to a foreign power in exchange for cryptocurrency.

Jonathan Toebbe and his wife, Diana, were arrested on Saturday in West Virginia following a year-long sting operation by undercover FBI agents, the Justice Department said in a statement.

They are scheduled to appear at a federal courthouse in Martinsburg, West Virginia at 11 a.m. ET (1500 GMT) for a formal reading of the criminal charges against them.

Jonathan Toebbe, 42, a nuclear engineer with top secret security clearance, is accused of sending US Navy documents to an unnamed foreign entity in 2020, along with instructions for how to obtain additional information.

The Justice Department did not name the country involved.

Toebbe, with the aid of his wife, allegedly sold secrets to an undercover FBI agent posing as a foreign official over the course of several months, the Justice Department said.

At one point, Toebbe hid a digital memory card containing documents about submarine nuclear reactors in half a peanut butter sandwich at a "dead drop" location in West Virginia, while his wife acted as lookout, the Justice Department said.

The memory card contained "militarily sensitive design elements, operating parameters and performance characteristics of Virginia-class submarine reactors," according to a federal court affidavit.

Another memory card was concealed in a chewing gum package, the Justice Department said.

Toebbe received separate cryptocurrency payments totaling $100,000, according to the Justice Department.

Officials said Toebbe and his wife, who are from Annapolis, Maryland, were arrested after placing another memory card at a drop site in West Virginia. They were charged with conspiracy and "communication of restricted data," according to a criminal complaint.

No attorney for the Toebbes was listed in either the court documents or the Justice Department statement.