ANNAPOLIS, Md. — A nuclear engineer with the U.S. Navy and his wife have been indicted for allegedly trying to sell submarine secrets to a foreign power.
The Justice Department says Jonathan and Diana Toebbe of Annapolis, Maryland, were indicted Tuesday on national security charges in Elkins, West Virginia. They’re each charged with one count of conspiracy to communicate restricted data, and two counts of communication of restricted data.
Jonathan is an employee of the Navy who served as a nuclear engineer and was assigned to the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, also known as Naval Reactors, according to the Justice Department. He held a national security clearance, which gave him access to the data.
For almost a year, prosecutors say Jonathan and Diana sold restricted data concerning the design of nuclear-powered warships to a person they believed was a representative of a foreign power. That person was actually an undercover FBI agent.
An indictment in the case alleges that Jonathan sent a package to a foreign government, containing a sample of restricted data and instructions for establishing a covert relationship to purchase additional information.
The indictment also alleges that Jonathan then began corresponding via encrypted email with an individual whom he believed to be a representative of the foreign government, but the person was really an undercover FBI agent. The correspondence continued for several months, which led to an agreement to see data in exchange for thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency, according to officials.
On June 8, officials say the undercover agent sent $10,000 in cryptocurrency to Jonathan as “good faith” payment. Shortly afterwards, Jonathan and Diana traveled to West Virginia, where the husband allegedly placed an SD card concealed in half a peanut butter sandwich at a pre-arranged “dead drop” location while his wife acted as a lookout.
After retrieving the SD card, the undercover agent sent Jonathan a $20,000 cryptocurrency payment, and in return, the suspect emailed the undercover agent a decryption key for the SD Card, according to officials.
“A review of the SD card revealed that it contained restricted data related to submarine nuclear reactors,” said the Justice Department.
Jonathan also made another “dead drop” of an SD card in Virginia that was concealed in a chewing gum package. It also included restricted data about submarine nuclear reactors.
On Oct. 9, Jonathan and Diana were arrested after they allegedly placed yet another SD card at a pre-arranged “dead drop” at a second location in West Virginia.