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US Navy Engineer and wife arrested by FBI for trying to sell nuclear submarine secrets to undercover FBI agent who posed as a foreign agent

A US navy nuclear submarine engineer and his wife have been charged by the FBI for allegedly trying to sell nuclear secrets to what they thought was a foreign state.

Jonathan Toebbe and his wife Diana were arrested in West Virginia on Saturday, October 9, the Justice Department announced.

They tried to sell nuclear submarine design data, hidden in a peanut butter sandwich, to someone they thought represented another country, not knowing it was an undercover FBI agent.

According to the statement, Toebbe and his partner aged 42 and 45 respectively, have now been charged under the Atomic Energy Act.

Toebbe worked in the US Navy’s nuclear propulsion programme and had national security clearance hence his ability to get nuclear data

The Justice Department in its announcement said that in April 2020 he sent a package to a foreign government containing restricted data and a message suggesting a covert relationship, so that they could buy more data from him.

He then allegedly began writing to an individual by encrypted email. While he thought this person represented the foreign government, they were actually an FBI agent, the affidavit said.

After several months, the accused couple allegedly made a deal to share secret information in exchange for around $100,000 (£73,000) in cryptocurrency.

In June this year, Jonathan and Diana Toebbe travelled to West Virginia to drop off the data.

With Diana acting as a lookout in case anyone was coming, Jonathan “placed an SD card concealed within half a peanut butter sandwich” at a determined location, the affidavit said.

After the agent collected the card, they sent payment and received a decryption key to access the SD card. On the card was restricted data “related to submarine nuclear reactors”.

Toebbe then performed a second drop off – this time hidden inside a chewing gum packet – in August, with yet more secret data on it.

On Saturday , FBI agents knowing they had enough evidence to charge him, then arrested the couple, during a third dead drop.

The couple will appear in federal court on 12 October.

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