Navy nuclear engineer charged by trying to share secrets

The Justice Department announced Sunday that a Navy nuclear engineer who had access to military secrets was charged with trying to relay information on the design of American nuclear powered submarines to someone he believed was a representative from a foreign government, but turned out to be an FBI agent.

Navy nuclear engineer charged by trying to share secrets

The government filed a criminal complaint against Jonathan Toebbe alleging that he sold information over the past year to a contact who he believed to be a foreign power. The court documents did not mention the country.

According to the Justice Department, Toebbe, 42 years old, was arrested in West Virginia Saturday with Diana, 45. He had placed a removable card at a "dead drop" prearranged in the state.

It was not immediately clear if the Toebbes (who are from Annapolis in Maryland) have lawyers. Sunday's comment was not made by the Navy.

According to the FBI, the scheme started in April 2020 when Jonathan Toebbe sent documents from Navy to a foreign government. He wrote that he wanted to sell to that country operations manuals and performance reports.

According to authorities, he also gave instructions on how to conduct the furtive relationships. He sent a letter saying: "I am sorry for my poor translation into your language. This letter should be sent to your military intelligence agency. This information is of great value for your country, I believe. This isn't a hoax.

The FBI obtained the package last December via its legal attache office in an unspecified foreign country. The court documents do not explain how or who the package was received by the FBI.

Toebbe's outreach was used by the FBI to launch a long-running undercover operation. An agent pretending to be a representative for a foreign contact got in touch with Toebbe, and he agreed that he would pay thousands of dollars in crypto for the information he was providing.

The FBI claims that the FBI sent Toebbe $10,000 in cryptocurrency in June after weeks of email back and forth.

Federal agents watched for weeks as the Toebbes arrived in West Virginia at the agreed-upon location for the exchange. Diana Toebbe appeared to be a lookout for her husband during the dead-drop operation, for which the FBI paid $20,000.

According to court documents, the FBI found a blue memory card wrapped with plastic. It was placed between two slices bread and half of a peanut butter sandwich. The memory card contained design elements and performance characteristics for Virginia-class submarine reactors.

According to the Justice Department, these submarines are "cruise missile fast attack submarines that incorporate the most recent in stealth, intelligence gathering and weapons system technology."

A typed message was also included on the memory card. It read: "I hope your specialists are very happy with this sample and I understand how important it is to exchange small amounts to grow our trust."

Over the next few months, FBI executed similar dead-drop exchanges. Toebbe received approximately $70,000 for one in August in eastern Virginia. Prosecutors allege that Toebbe concealed in chewing gum a memory card containing schematic designs for the Virginia class submarine.

The complaint claims violations of the Atomic Energy Act. This Act restricts disclosure of information about atomic weapons and nuclear materials.

The Toebbes will make their first court appearance Tuesday in Martinsburg (West Virginia).

According to the FBI, Jonathan Toebbe worked for the U.S. government from 2012 and holds a top-secret security clearance. He specializes in naval nuclear propulsion. A government laboratory located in Pittsburgh has been assigned to him. Officials claim that it works on nuclear power for U.S. Navy.

On Sunday afternoon, no one answered the door at the Toebbe residence in Annapolis, a community near the South River. A dog bellowed inside the house, while an outside light was visible above their front door.

John Cooley, who lives next to the Toebbes said that he counted more then 30 FBI agents on his street on Saturday, from around 2:30 p.m. to after dark. According to him, agents entered the house.

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