The Justice Department says 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.
In a criminal complaint detailing the espionage-related charges against Jonathan Toebbe, the government says he sold information to a contact he believed represented a foreign power for nearly the past year.
“The complaint charges a plot to transmit information relating to the design of our nuclear submarines to a foreign nation,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland in a news release. “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.”
That country was not named in the court documents.
According to the Justice Department, Toebbe was assigned to the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program and had national security clearance through the Department of Defense.
Federal prosecutors allege that Toebbe began selling military secrets in April 2020 when he sent a package to a foreign government that contained Navy documents.
Toebbe then began sending encrypted emails in the following months by agreeing to sell the information in exchange for thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency.
In June 2021, prosecutors said the undercover agent sent $10,000 in cryptocurrency to Toebbe as a “good faith” payment.
On June 26, as his wife, Diana, 45, acted as a lookout, Toebbe met the undercover agent at an agreed-upon location in West Virginia and hid an SD Card in a peanut butter sandwich with the highly classified information in exchange for $20,000.
Toebbe was arrested in West Virginia on Saturday along with his wife.
It's not immediately clear whether either Toebbe has a lawyer.