ANNAPOLIS, Md. — A U.S. Naval engineer and his wife have been charged with repeatedly trying to pass secrets about U.S. nuclear submarines to a foreign country, multiple media outlets reported.
The alleged espionage plot was thwarted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Stars and Stripes reported, citing court documents.
According to a criminal complaint filed in West Virginia and unsealed on Sunday, 45-year-old Jonathan Toebbe, who has a top-secret clearance, “has passed, and continues to pass, Restricted Data as defined by the Atomic Energy Act ... to a foreign government ... with the witting assistance of his spouse, Diana Toebbe,” the military news outlet reported.
Specifically, the U.S. Department of Justice has accused Jonathan Toebbe of selling information for nearly the past year to a contact he believed to represent a foreign nation but was instead an FBI agent, The Guardian reported.
The foreign country has not been named publicly, but the couple was arrested in West Virginia on Saturday after Jonathan Toebbe placed a removable memory card at a prearranged “dead drop” in that state, the DOJ confirmed in the complaint.
Officials also confirmed that during the drops Diana Toebbe acted as a lookout, WPXI reported.
The Annapolis, Maryland, couple was taken into custody by the FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and charged with Atomic Energy Act violations after they used a Pittsburgh address, among other covert methods, to interact with the undercover agent, the TV station reported.
“The complaint charges a plot to transmit information relating to the design of our nuclear submarines to a foreign nation,” U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a prepared statement.
According to WPXI, Jonathan Toebbes leveraged his position and high-level clearance as a nuclear engineer at the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program to pass along sensitive materials related to military design elements, operating parameters and performance characteristics of the reactors for nuclear-powered warships.
Federal agents ultimately provided the Toebbeses with cryptocurrency worth $100,000 for the secrets that were often masked inside " a half a peanut butter sandwich or chewing gum packages,” the TV station reported.
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