Navy Engineer, Wife Arrested, Face Espionage Charges

DOJ says he hid data in a peanut butter sandwich
By Liz MacGahan,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 10, 2021 4:03 PM CDT
Navy Engineer, Wife Charged With Trying to Share Secrets
File photo provided by U.S. Navy of a Virginia-class fast-attack submarine. A Navy nuclear engineer was charged with trying to pass secrets about this class of sub to an unnamed foreign government.   (Amanda R. Gray/U.S. Navy via AP, File)

A Navy nuclear engineer and his wife are facing charges of trying to sell secrets to a foreign government. Jonathan Toebbe and his wife, Diana, are accused of agreeing to exchange data for thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency, the Baltimore Sun reports. The couple, who live in Annapolis, MD, were arrested in West Virginia on espionage charges. Toebbe, who has a top secret security clearance worked on the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program. His wife is a teacher. A Department of Justice press release says Toebbe sent a package to a foreign government—not named in the release or the criminal complaint—with a sample of data and instructions on how to buy more. The package, which included a letter reading, “Please forward this letter to your military intelligence agency. I believe this information will be of great value to your nation. This is not a hoax,” made its way to the FBI in December 2020, the Washington Post reports.

An undercover FBI agent drew him out until they reached an agreement. Toebbe left data cards in West Virginia and Virginia—his wife serving as lookout—one hidden in a peanut butter sandwich and another in a chewing gum wrapper. The Toebbes got a down payment of $10,000 and another payment of $70,000, both in cryptocurrency. He also somehow got a signal from the unnamed foreign country’s embassy, but the DOJ isn’t saying what that was. The information on the cards was about Virginia class submarines, which can carry cruise missiles. Officials say Toebbe handed over thousands of pages of information that apparently took years to accumulate. In message he thought was to a foreign government, he wrote that he had cash and passports and hoped to be taken in if he were ever found out. (More espionage stories.)

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