Navy engineer pleads guilty for selling submarine secrets

Monday's plea by a Navy nuclear engineer to passing on information about American nuclear-powered warships was guilty.

Navy engineer pleads guilty for selling submarine secrets

He thought he was representing a foreign government, but was in fact an undercover FBI agent.

Jonathan Toebbe (43), pleaded guilty to a single charge of conspiracy to transmit restricted data in federal court Martinsburg, West Virginia. Lawyers have agreed on a range of sentencing that could see Toebbe sentenced between 12 and 17 years imprisonment.

After prosecutors claimed that Toebbe and Diana had abused their access to top-secret government data and sold repeatedly details about the design elements of Virginia-class submarines and their performance characteristics, Toebbe was arrested with his wife Diana.

During the plea hearing, Toebbe admitted that he and his wife conspired to transfer classified information to a foreign country in exchange for money. This was with the intent of "injuring the United States."

Toebbe answered "Yes, your honour" when asked if he thought he was guilty.

Matthew Olsen is the top official in national security at the Justice Department. He said that information on nuclear-powered submarines was among the most secretive secrets of the U.S government.

Olsen stated in a statement that the defendant was given some secrets. Instead of protecting them, he betrayed the trust and conspired with another country to sell them.

According to the FBI, the scheme started in April 2020 when Jonathan Toebbe sent documents from Navy to a foreign government. He wrote that he was interested to sell to that country operation manuals, performance reports, and other sensitive information. Prosecutors said that Toebbe included instructions to his supposed contact on how to establish a secret relationship with him in the package. It had a Pittsburgh address as its return address.

The FBI obtained the package through the legal attache office in an unspecified foreign nation last December. This set off a long undercover operation that saw an agent pretending to be a representative from a foreign country contact Toebbe. In exchange, Toebbe paid $100,000 in cryptocurrency.

Diana Toebbe was accused of being a lookout at prearranged "dead drop" locations. Her husband left behind memory cards with government secrets at these locations. These cards were hidden in items such as a chewing gum wrapper or a peanut butter sandwich. The case against her is pending and she has pleaded not guilty. After he had placed a memory-card at a dead-drop location, the couple were arrested in West Virginia.

Jonathan Toebbe did not identify the country from which he was trying to sell the information. This was not disclosed by the court during Monday's plea hearing.

Toebbe was a top-secret security clearance holder through the Defense Department. He agreed to assist federal officials in locating and retrieving classified information. The FBI also paid him approximately $100,000 in cryptocurrency.

According to court testimony last summer, FBI agents searched the Annapolis, Maryland home of the couple and found a trash bag containing shredded documents, cash worth thousands of dollars, valid passports for children, and a "go-bag", a container containing a flash drive and gloves.


 

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