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espionage

Navy nuclear engineer and his wife charged with trying to pass secrets to foreign country

Navy nuclear engineer Jonathan Toebbe and his wife, Diana Toebbe, have been charged with repeatedly attempting to share U.S. submarine secrets with a foreign country, according to court documents unsealed on Sunday. 

Jonathan Toebbe, 42, holds a top-secret clearance, and the court documents allege that he "has passed, and continues to pass, restricted data as defined by the Atomic Energy Act ... to a foreign government ... with the witting assistance of his spouse, Diana Toebbe." The FBI learned of this alleged espionage plot in December 2020, when an official received a package that had been sent to the foreign country and contained U.S. Navy documents and instructions on conducting encrypted communications, The Washington Post reports.

There was also a letter inside the package that read, "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." The court documents state that FBI agents then posed as spies for the unnamed foreign country and began communicating with Toebbe via email, eventually gaining his trust after sending him payments in cryptocurrency, the Post reports.

Toebbe went on to trade data cards for more payments, the court documents say, with his wife "acting as a lookout" when he dropped off the material. Per the filings, Toebbe — who has worked for the Navy since 2012 and was on active duty until 2017 — shared details on the design, operation, and performance of Virginia-class nuclear submarine reactors. 

Jonathan and Diana Toebbe, 45, were arrested Saturday in West Virginia, and have been charged with conspiracy to communicate restricted data and communication of restricted data. They are due in court on Tuesday.