A Maryland nuclear engineer and his spouse were arrested by the FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) for selling restricted data related to nuclear-powered warships against payment in cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, according to a statement by the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ).
Jonathan Toebbe, 42, and his wife Diana, 45, sold information known as restricted data concerning the design of nuclear-powered warships to a person they believed was a representative of a foreign power, who was actually an undercover FBI agent. They have been doing this for almost one year.
They will both have their initial appearances on Tuesday, October 12, in federal court in Martinsburg, West Virginia. They have been charged in a criminal complaint alleging violations of the Atomic Energy Act.
The complaint charges the two for a plot to transmit information relating to the design of nuclear submarines to a foreign national. The FBI, Department of Justice prosecutors, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Department of Energy thwarted the plot.
According to the complaint, Toebbe, an employee of the Department of the Navy, served as a nuclear engineer and was assigned to the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, also known as Naval Reactors. He held an active national security clearance through the U.S. Department of Defense, giving him access to Restricted Data.
The complaint alleges that Toebbe had sent a package to a foreign government on April 1, 2020, listing a return address in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, containing a sample of Restricted Data and instructions for establishing a covert relationship to purchase additional Restricted Data.
Toebbe then began corresponding via encrypted email with an individual whom he believed to be a representative of the foreign government. He continued this correspondence for several months, which led to an agreement to sell Restricted Data in exchange for thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency.
The representative, an undercover FBI agent, sent $10,000 in cryptocurrency to Toebbe as “good faith” payment on June 8, 2021. The husband and wife traveled to a location in West Virginia on June 26 and placed an SD card concealed within half a peanut butter sandwich at a pre-arranged “dead drop” location.
After retrieving the SD card, the undercover agent sent Toebbe a $20,000 cryptocurrency payment. In return, Toebbe emailed the undercover agent a decryption key for the SD Card. A review of the SD card revealed that it contained Restricted Data related to submarine nuclear reactors.
Another similar SD card was delivered on August 28, this time in a chewing gum package and a payment to Toebbe of $70,000 in cryptocurrency was made against a decryption key for the card. On October 9, they were arrested while they were dropping yet another SD card.
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