A married US couple has been arrested on espionage-related charges, with Jonathan and Diana Toebbe, both of Annapolis, Maryland arrested in Jefferson County, West Virginia by the FBI and Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) after they tried to sell data on nuclear-powered warships to a foreign government.
Attorney General Merrick B. Garland explains: "The complaint charges a plot to transmit information relating to the design of our nuclear submarines to a foreign nation. 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 couple are in big sh*t, with Jonathan Toebbe being an employee of the Department of the Navy, where he was a nuclear engineer and worked on the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, which is known as the Naval Reactors. Toebbe had an active national security clearance through the US Department of Defense, which let him have access to the Restricted Data he tried to sell to a foreign government.
The events started in April 2020 where Toebbe sent a package to a foreign government, with a return address listed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which had a sample of the Restricted Data and then instructions for how to start a covert relationship to buy more Restricted Data.
Encrypted emails were sent, but Toebbe never knew he was talking to an undercover FBI agent -- where Toebbe was lining up to hand over Restricted Data for thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency.
The undercover FBI agent sent Toebbe $10,000 in cryptocurrency as a "good faith" payment on June 8, 2021 -- where on June 26 the couple went to West Virginia. Diana acted as the lookout for her husband, where Jonathan put an SD card inside of half a peanut butter sandwich (seriously) at a pre-arranged "dead drop" location.
Once the SD card was secured by the undercover FBI agent, the agent sent $20,000 in cryptocurrency to Jonathan as a payment. In return, Jonathan sent the undercover FBI agent the decryption key to unlock the contents of the SD card, which when unlocked the FBI discovered that it was indeed Restricted Data to submarine nuclear reactors.
Toebbe had just sold nuclear-powered secrets to what he thought was a foreign government... for only $20,000. This wasn't enough, with Toebbe making another deal this time for $70,000 on August 28 with another SD card in West Virginia.
This time the SD card wasn't hidden in a half peanut butter sandwich, but inside of a chewing gum package. Once the payment was made by the undercover FBI agent, the SD card was unlocked and it also had Restricted Data in relation to submarine nuclear reactors.
The FBI arrested Jonathan and Diana Toebbe on October 9, 2021 after another SD card was placed at a dead drop location in West Virginia.