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Navy nuclear engineer and wife indicted for allegedly trying to sell submarine secrets

Spy charges for former Navy nuclear engineer
Spy charges for former Navy nuclear engineer 06:05

A Maryland-based naval nuclear engineer and his schoolteacher wife were indicted by a federal grand jury on Tuesday on national security charges that they tried to sell secret information about nuclear power warships. The indictment comes one week  after they were arrested and charged via criminal complaint on similar charges.

Jonathan and Diana Toebbe of Annapolis, Maryland, were formally charged Tuesday by a grand jury in Elkins, West Virginia, with one count of "Conspiracy to Communicate Restricted Data" and two counts of "Communication of Restricted Data." 

Prosecutors allege Jonathan Toebbe, through his Pentagon-issued national security clearance, had access to restricted data about naval nuclear technology and used that access to send a package to an unnamed foreign government on April 1, 2020.

He is accused of then corresponding with someone he believed to be an agent of another country, but who was actually an undercover FBI agent. Court documents claim the Navy engineer agreed to sell restricted data to the undercover agent for tens of thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency.

U.S. Warships Participate In Exercise Ssang Yong 2016
The amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) transits the East Sea in a March 8, 2016 file photo provided by the U.S. Navy.  Getty/Handout

Jonathan Toebbe, accompanied by his wife, Diana, then went to West Virginia and placed a memory card inside half of a peanut butter sandwich, the government alleges, with Diana Toebbe serving as a lookout. According to the Justice Department, the card contained restricted data about submarine nuclear reactors. 

The Navy engineer continued with more "dead drops," leaving memory cards inside a sealed bandaid wrapper and a chewing gum package, and he mentioned to the individual he thought was a foreign agent that the couple might need help fleeing the country. 

The Toebbes are set to appear in federal court once again on Wednesday, where prosecutors will ask a judge to detain them pending trial. 

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