Maryland Couple Conspired to Sell Nuclear Secrets

A married couple from Maryland has admitted conspiring to steal nuclear secrets from the United States and sell them to a foreign nation. 

Annapolis residents, Jonathan and Diana Toebbe, were arrested by the FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service on October 9 2021 after placing an SD card containing stolen restricted data at a pre-arranged ‘dead drop’ location in Jefferson County, West Virginia.

At the time of his arrest, Jonathan Toebbe was employed as a nuclear engineer by the Department of the Navy, who had assigned Toebbe to the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, also known as Naval Reactors.

Toebbe used the national security clearance he had obtained through the Department of Defense to access restricted data. Among the data Toebbe worked with and had access to was information concerning naval nuclear propulsion, which included data on military sensitive design elements, operating parameters and performance characteristics of the reactors for nuclear-powered warships.

Jonathan Toebbe admitted sending a sample of restricted data to a foreign government in April 2020 along with instructions on how that government could purchase additional secrets. 

The engineer then began a months-long correspondence with an individual he believed to be a representative of the foreign government but who was an undercover FBI agent. 

After receiving advance payments in cryptocurrency, Toebbe hid SD cards containing stolen data in a peanut butter sandwich and a pack of gum and left them at pre-arranged locations for his buyer to collect. 

Toebbe’s wife Diana knowingly and voluntarily joined in on the conspiracy, serving as a lookout for her husband while he completed three data dead drops.

On February 14, 43-year-old Jonathan Toebbe pleaded guilty to conspiracy to communicate Restricted Data related to the design of nuclear-powered warships. Diana Toebbe, 46, pleaded guilty on February 18 to the same offense. 

US attorney Cindy Chung for the Western District of Pennsylvania said: “My office will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to identify and hold accountable those who would pursue financial gain at the expense of their solemn duty to protect our country’s closely held secrets.

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