A Navy engineer and his wife were arrested on charges of selling restricted information about the nuclear submarine design from the US to an alleged representative of a “foreign power” who was actually an undercover FBI agent, the Department of Justice (DOJ) reported on Sunday.
Jonathan Toebbe, 42, and his wife, Diana (45), were arrested on Saturday in Jefferson County, in the state of Virginia Occidental, por the FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigation Service, after being accused in a criminal complaint of having violated the Atomic Energy Act, the DOJ said in a statement.
The United States Attorney General, Merrick Garland, said in the statement that the complaint alleges a “plot to transmit information related to the design” of US nuclear submarines to a foreign nation.
The Atomic Energy Law The United States defines “restricted data” as those related to the “design, manufacture or use of atomic weapons”, the production of special nuclear material and the use of special nuclear material in the production of energy.
Toebbe and his wife have been charged of the conspiracy charges to communicate restricted data and communication of restricted data.
According to the DOJ, Toebbe, a Navy nuclear engineer assigned to the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, he had a national security clearance that gave him access to “restricted data.”
Specifically, the defendant worked and had access to information related to naval propulsion, among which are military elements of sensitive design, operating parameters and performance characteristics of the reactors for the nuclear powered submarines.
The indictment indicated that on April 1, 2020, Toebbe sent a package to a foreign government, with a return address in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, containing a sample of “restricted data” and instructions to establish a covert communication for the purchase more information.
Since then, the engineer maintained an encrypted email exchange with a person he believed represented a foreign government and that it turned out to be an FBI agent, which led to a deal to sell information in exchange for thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency.
The undercover agent sent Toebbe a “good faith” payment of $ 10,000 in cryptocurrency on June 8 and on the 26th of that month Jonathan and Diana Toebbe They traveled to West Virginia to drop off a memory card camouflaged in the middle of a peanut butter sandwich.
The woman apparently acted like “look-out“detailed the DOJ.
After receiving the card, the agent made another payment of $ 20,000 to obtain, via email, a password to access the information.
Another card, this time hidden in a pack of gum, was left on august 28 by Toebbe, who received $ 70,000 to disclose the key.
This Saturday, the couple was arrested after placing another card in a hidden point in West Virginia. Both will have their first appearance on Tuesday in court in Martinsburg, in that state.
According to The Washington Post, the data was related to the Virginia nuclear attack submarines, which have been in service with the US Navy since 2004 and were designed to replace the previous class. Seawolf (Sea Wolf).
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.