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A naval nuclear engineer with access to military secrets was accused of trying to pass on information about the design of US nuclear-powered submarines to a department that he believed to be a representative of a foreign government but turned out to be an undercover agent of the FBI, said Sunday.
The government stated in a criminal lawsuit detailing allegations of espionage against Jonathan Toebbe that he had sold information for nearly a year to contacts he believed to represent foreign powers. That country is not mentioned in the court documents.
According to the Department of Justice, 42-year-old Toby and his 45-year-old wife, Diana, were arrested in West Virginia on Saturday after placing a removable memory card in a pre-arranged “dead spot” in Jefferson County.
It is unclear whether Toby has a lawyer. Toebbes is from Annapolis, Maryland. The Navy declined to comment on Sunday.
The FBI stated that the program began in April 2020, when Jonathan Toebbe sent a package of naval documents to foreign governments and expressed his interest in selling operating manuals, performance reports and other sensitive information.
The authorities said that he also provided instructions on how to deal with this sneaky relationship, and wrote in a letter: “I apologize for the poor translation into your language. Please forward this letter to your Military intelligence agencies. I believe this information will be very valuable to your country. This is not a scam.”
In December last year, the FBI’s legal office in a foreign country received a package with a reply address of Pittsburgh. This led to several months of undercover operations, in which an agent posing as a representative of a foreign government was willing to pay thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency for information provided by Toebbe.
The FBI stated that in June, undercover agents sent Toby $10,000 in cryptocurrency, describing it as a sign of goodwill and trust.
The complaint stated that the following week, FBI agents witnessed the Tobys arriving at an agreed location in West Virginia for an exchange. Diana Toby appeared to be acting as a watchdog for her husband during the airdrop operation. The complaint alleges that the FBI found a blue SD card wrapped in plastic and placed it between two slices of bread on a peanut butter sandwich.
The U.S. Department of Justice stated that the FBI paid Torbay $20,000 for the transaction and provided the contents of the SD card to naval subject matter experts, who determined that the record included the design elements and performance characteristics of the Virginia-class submarine reactor. The complaint claims that these submarines are advanced nuclear-powered “cruise missile fast attack submarines.”
The SD card also contains a typed message, part of which reads: “I hope your experts are very satisfied with the samples provided, and I understand the importance of small exchanges to increase our trust.” The complaint stated that the FBI will continue Similar crash exchanges took place in the past few months, including one in Virginia in August when Toby received $70,000 and concealed an SD card in the chewing gum package.
The complaint alleged a violation of the Atomic Energy Act, which restricts the disclosure of information related to atomic weapons or nuclear materials.
Toebbes is expected to appear in court for the first time in Martinsburg, West Virginia on Tuesday.
According to the FBI, Jonathan Toby has been working for the US government since 2012, holds a top-secret security permit, and specializes in naval nuclear propulsion. He was also assigned to a laboratory in the Pittsburgh area, which officials described as the US Navy for nuclear power research.
On Sunday afternoon, no one answered the phone at Toby’s residence in the Annapolis Waterfront Community on the South River. An outside lamp above their door was on, and a dog barked inside.
John Cooley, who lives across the street from Toebbes, said that he counted more than 30 FBI agents in his neighborhood at around 2:30 pm on Saturday and after dark. He said that the agent entered the house.