US Navy engineer, wife accused of espionage plot
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A Navy employee and his wife were arrested on Saturday for selling data on the design of nuclear-powered warships for almost a year to an individual they believed to be a foreign government representative, but was in fact an undercover FBI agent.
Jonathan Toebbe, 42, and his wife Diana Toebbe, 45, were arrested by the FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) in West Virginia on Oct. 9 and charged with violating the Atomic Energy Act, according to the.
Jonathan Toebbe is a nuclear engineer for the Navy and was assigned to the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program. Due to his position, he had access to restricted data concerning naval nuclear propulsion.
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"Please forward this letter to your military intelligence agency," the letter read. "I believe this information will be of great value to your nation. This is not a hoax."The espionage scheme was uncovered by the FBI late last year and a criminal complaint was subsequently filed against engineer Jonathan Toebbe and his wife Diane Toebe in West Virginia, according to The Washington Post.
Diana Toebbe is a humanities teacher. Though her place of work was not stated in the complaint, she is listed as a faculty member at the private PreK-12 Key School in Annapolis, Md., where she and her husband live. According to the school's website, she received her Bachelor's from the University of California, Santa Cruz and her Ph.D from Emory University.
According to the criminal complaint, an FBI attaché in an unnamed foreign country received a package on Dec. 20, 2020 from representatives of the country they were in. Earlier in April, those representatives had received a package that contained U.S. Navy documents and digital instructions on how the country should respond.
A letter included with the package expressed a desire to sell Navy documents such as "printouts, digital media files containing technical details, operations manuals, and performance reports."
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It's Tuesday, welcome to Overnight Defense & National Security, your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup.President Biden met virtually with Group of 20 (G-20) leaders, with the group discussing topics that focused on Afghanistan rescue and humanitarian efforts.We'll have more on what was discussed specifically, the veteran diplomat that will lead Afghan relocation efforts and what's at the top of the agenda in the joint meeting of U.S., Israel and UAE.For The Hill, I'm Ellen Mitchell. Write to me with tips: email@example.com.Let's get to it.
Beginning on Dec. 26, 2020, the FBI began several email messages with an address in the SD card that had been sent to the foreign country.
In the correspondence, the sender with the alias "ALICE" demanded $100,000 in exchange for a download link leading to classified Navy information.
"I understand this is a large request. However~ please remember I am risking my life for your benefit and I have taken the first step. Please help me trust you fully," ALICE, now known to be Jonathan Toebbe, said to the FBI agent he believed to be representing a foreign government.
In June, the FBI paid Toebbe $10,000 as a sign of good faith and then, about a week after sending payment, the agency began conducting dead drop operations in Jefferson County, West Virginia. A dead drop is a form of exchange commonly used in espionage to drop off information in a hidden spot at which a party can receive the information without being seen by the public or police.
Prosecutors seek detention in Navy submarine espionage case
WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal prosecutors asked Monday that a Navy engineer remain locked up as they press forward with charges that he tried to sell submarine secrets to a foreign country. The detention memo for Jonathan Toebbe was filed ahead of an expected appearance in federal court in West Virginia on Tuesday. The Justice Department submitted an identical motion for Toebbe's wife, Diana, who was also arrested Saturday. Jonathan Toebbe isThe detention memo for Jonathan Toebbe was filed ahead of an expected appearance in federal court in West Virginia on Tuesday. The Justice Department submitted an identical motion for Toebbe's wife, Diana, who was also arrested Saturday.
During these operations, Toebbe was physically seen at the agreed-upon location and was identified as a government employee. Diana Toebbe was observed to be nearby, assisting him with the dead drop operation.
In one instance, Toebbe hid an SD inside of a plastic bag that was itself hidden inside half of a peanut butter sandwich.
Following this operation, in which the FBI received an SD card from Toebbe, another $20,000 was paid to the Navy employee.
In August, Toebbe conducted another dead drop operation in which he hid an SD card in a gum wrapper. After he was paid an additional $70,000, Toebbe sent the FBI a decryption key for the SD card. All the information that Toebbe handed over was found to be officially restricted.
The couple was arrested during another dead drop operation at a second location in West Virginia.
"The complaint charges a plot to transmit information relating to the design of our nuclear submarines to a foreign nation," Attorney General Merrick Garland said.
"The work of the FBI, Department of Justice prosecutors, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Department of Energy was critical in thwarting the plot charged in the complaint and taking this first step in bringing the perpetrators to justice."
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