Navy nuclear engineer charged with trying to pass secrets

A Navy nuclear engineer with entry to navy secrets has been charged with trying to pass details about the design of American nuclear-powered submarines to somebody he thought was a consultant of a international authorities however who turned out to be an undercover FBI agent, the Justice Department mentioned Sunday.

In a legal grievance detailing espionage-related prices in opposition to Jonathan Toebbe, the federal government mentioned he bought info for practically the previous 12 months to a contact he believed represented a international energy. That nation was not named within the court docket paperwork.

Toebbe, 42, was arrested in West Virginia on Saturday alongside with his spouse, Diana, 45, after he had positioned a detachable reminiscence card at a prearranged “dead drop” within the state, in accordance to the Justice Department.


It wasn’t instantly clear whether or not the Toebbes, who’re from Annapolis, Maryland, have attorneys. The Navy declined to remark Sunday.

The FBI says the scheme started in April 2020 when Jonathan Toebbe despatched a package deal of Navy paperwork to a international authorities and wrote that he was eager about promoting to that nation operations manuals, efficiency stories and different delicate info.

Authorities say he additionally supplied directions for a way to conduct the furtive relationship, with a letter that mentioned: “I apologize for this poor translation into your language. 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.”

That package deal, which had a return tackle in Pittsburgh, was obtained by the FBI final December by way of its authorized attache workplace within the unspecified international nation. That led to a monthslong undercover operation wherein an agent posing as a consultant of the international authorities made contact with Toebbe an agreed to pay 1000’s of {dollars} in cryptocurrency for the data he was providing.

In June, the FBI says, the secret agent despatched $10,000 in cryptocurrency to Toebbe, describing it as an indication of fine religion and belief.

Weeks later, federal brokers watched because the Toebbes arrived at an agreed-upon location in West Virginia for the change, with Diana Toebbe showing to function a lookout for her husband throughout a dead-drop operation for which the FBI paid $20,000, in accordance to the grievance. The FBI recovered a blue reminiscence card wrapped in plastic and positioned between two slices of bread on a peanut butter sandwich, court docket paperwork say.

The FBI supplied the contents of the reminiscence card to a Navy material knowledgeable, who decided that the information included design components and efficiency traits of Virginia-class submarine reactors, the Justice Department mentioned.

Those submarines are refined, nuclear-powered “cruise missile fast-attack submarines,” in accordance to the grievance.

The reminiscence card additionally included a typed message that mentioned, partly: “I hope your experts are very happy with the sample provided and I understand the importance of a small exchange to grow our trust.”

The FBI carried out related dead-drop exchanges over the subsequent a number of months, together with one in August in Virginia wherein Toebbe hid in a chewing gum package deal a reminiscence card that contained schematic designs for the Virginia-class submarine and was paid roughly $70,000, in accordance to court docket paperwork.

The grievance alleges violations of the Atomic Energy Act, which restricts the disclosure of data associated to atomic weapons or nuclear supplies.

The Toebbes are anticipated to have their preliminary court docket appearances Tuesday in Martinsburg, West Virginia.


Jonathan Toebbe has labored for the U.S. authorities since 2012, holding a top-secret safety clearance and specializing in naval nuclear propulsion, the FBI says. He has additionally been assigned to a government-owned laboratory within the Pittsburgh space that officers say works on nuclear energy for the U.S. Navy.

No one answered on the Toebbe residence on Sunday afternoon in a waterside Annapolis neighborhood by the South River. An exterior gentle was on above the door of their dwelling, and a canine barked inside.

John Cooley, who lives throughout the road from the Toebbes, mentioned he counted greater than 30 FBI brokers on his block on Saturday from about 2:30 p.m. till after darkish. He mentioned brokers went inside the house.

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