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US Navy Engineer Concealed Military Secrets in Sandwich to Sell to Foreigners, Feds Say

09:55  12 october  2021
09:55  12 october  2021 Source:   newsweek.com

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A Navy nuclear engineer who had access to military secrets has been charged with trying to give information about the design of American nuclear submarines to an undercover FBI agent, the Justice Department said Sunday.

FILE - In this Friday, July 30, 2004 file photo, the U.S.S. Virginia returns to the Electric Boat Shipyard in Groton Conn., after its first sea trials. A Navy nuclear engineer with access to military secrets has been charged with trying to pass information about the design of American nuclear-powered submarines to someone he thought was a representative of a foreign government but who turned out to be an undercover FBI agent, the Justice Department said Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021. © Jack Sauer, File/AP Photo FILE - In this Friday, July 30, 2004 file photo, the U.S.S. Virginia returns to the Electric Boat Shipyard in Groton Conn., after its first sea trials. A Navy nuclear engineer with access to military secrets has been charged with trying to pass information about the design of American nuclear-powered submarines to someone he thought was a representative of a foreign government but who turned out to be an undercover FBI agent, the Justice Department said Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021.

In an unusual secret handoff, Jonathan Toebbe allegedly gave the agent, who he thought was a representative of a foreign government, a memory card placed between two slices of bread on a half of a peanut butter sandwich, according to court documents. The memory card reportedly contained design elements and performance characteristics of Virginia-class submarine reactors, according to the Associated Press.

Navy Engineer Sought Cryptocurrency Payments to Share Nuclear Submarine Secrets: FBI

  Navy Engineer Sought Cryptocurrency Payments to Share Nuclear Submarine Secrets: FBI "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.

A typed message from Toebbe was allegedly also on the card, and according to the Justice Department, the note read, "I hope your experts are very happy with the sample provided and I understand the importance of a small exchange to grow our trust."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

In a criminal complaint detailing espionage-related charges against Toebbe, the government said he sold information for nearly the past year to a contact he believed represented a foreign power. That country was not named in the court documents.

Toebbe, 42, was arrested in West Virginia on Saturday along with his wife, Diana, 45, after he had placed a removable memory card at a prearranged "dead drop" in the state, according to the Justice Department.

Navy engineer, wife accused of espionage plot

  Navy engineer, wife accused of espionage plot 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 Department of Justice. Jonathan Toebbe is a nuclear engineer for the Navy and was assigned to the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program.

The Justice Department describes those submarines as "cruise missile fast-attack submarines, which incorporate the latest in stealth, intelligence gathering, and weapons systems technology."

It wasn't immediately clear whether the Toebbes, who are from Annapolis, Maryland, have lawyers. The Navy declined to comment Sunday.

The FBI says the scheme began in April 2020 when Jonathan Toebbe sent a package of Navy documents to a foreign government and wrote that he was interested in selling to that country operations manuals, performance reports and other sensitive information.

Authorities say he also provided instructions for how to conduct the furtive relationship, with a letter that said: "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."

Prosecutors seek detention in Navy submarine espionage case

  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.


Video: U.S. Navy engineer charged with selling secrets (Reuters)

That package, which had a return address in Pittsburgh, was obtained by the FBI last December through its legal attache office in the unspecified foreign country. The court documents don't explain how the FBI came to receive the package or from whom.

In any event, the FBI used Toebbe's outreach as the launching pad for a monthslong undercover operation in which an agent posing as a representative of a foreign contact made contact with Toebbe and agreed to pay thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency for the information that Toebbe was offering.

After weeks of back and forth over email, the undercover agent in June sent Toebbe about $10,000 in cryptocurrency, describing it as a sign of good faith and trust, the FBI says.

Weeks later, federal agents watched as the Toebbes arrived at an agreed-upon location in West Virginia for the exchange, with Diana Toebbe appearing to serve as a lookout for her husband during a dead-drop operation for which the FBI paid $20,000.

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The FBI conducted similar dead-drop exchanges over the next several months, including one in August in eastern Virginia for which Toebbe was paid roughly $70,000. In that instance, prosecutors say, he concealed in a chewing gum package a memory card that contained schematic designs for the Virginia-class submarine.

The complaint alleges violations of the Atomic Energy Act, which restricts the disclosure of information related to atomic weapons or nuclear materials.

The Toebbes are expected to have their initial court appearances Tuesday in Martinsburg, West Virginia.

Jonathan Toebbe has worked for the U.S. government since 2012, holding a top-secret security clearance and specializing in naval nuclear propulsion, the FBI says. He has also been assigned to a government-owned laboratory in the Pittsburgh area that officials say works on nuclear power for the U.S. Navy.

No one answered at the Toebbe residence on Sunday afternoon in a waterside Annapolis community by the South River, an outside light was on above the door of their home, and a dog barked inside.

John Cooley, who lives across the street from the Toebbes, said he counted more than 30 FBI agents on his block on Saturday from about 2:30 p.m. until after dark. He said agents went inside the home.

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This is interesting!