Maryland couple, including naval engineer, face espionage-related charges following year-long FBI sting involving nuclear submarine designs
Federal prosecutors want a Maryland couple accused of trying to sell top-secret nuclear submarine designs following a nearly year-long sting operation conducted by the 联邦调查局 to remain in custody before a potential trial.
The couple – 美国海军 engineer Jonathan Toebbe and his wife Diana – could face a life sentence in prison if convicted on espionage-related charges.
Prosecutors filed a motion for pre-trial detention, arguing that the case involves “an offence for which the maximum sentence is life imprisonment or death” and that the defendants could flee the country or pose a “serious risk obstruction of justice,” according to documents filed in US District Court on 11 十月.
They made their first court appearance in federal court in West Virginia on 12 October wearing orange jumpsuits and surgical masks. The couple will return to court for detention hearings on 15 October followed by preliminary examination hearings on 20 十月.
The couple was arrested on 9 十月, the culmination of an alleged scheme in which Mr Toebbe negotiated the trade of closely held Virginia-class nuclear submarine secrets with a foreign power – who were actually FBI agents – for thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency, according to the US Department of Justice.
In the case presented by federal prosecutors, the FBI posed as foreign officials to trade encrypted messages with the naval engineer using code names, negotiate dead-drop locations, and send $100,000 in US dollars in the Monero cryptocurrency before he allegedly shared a memory card with top-secret plans inside a peanut butter sandwich, a Band-Aid and a chewing gum package.
In December 2020, the FBI reportedly obtained a package intercepted by authorities but intended for another country containing operational manuals and other information – all marked “CONFIDENTIAL” – in what appeared to be an attempt to establish a covert relationship, according to an affidavit filed on 8 十月.
Over the following months, the FBI repeatedly messaged with a person using the alias “Alice” – which prosecutors allege is Mr Toebbe – to negotiate cryptocurrency payments and schedule dead drops containing memory cards with naval information marked as “redacted” in court documents.
FBI agents discovered that the contents of one SD card “contained schematic designs for the Virginia-class submarine”, described as “nuclear-powered cruise missile fast-attack submarines, which incorporate the latest in stealth, intelligence gathering, and weapons systems technology”. Each cost roughly $3bn and are to remain in service through at least 2060, 根据法庭文件.
The FBI paid the Toebbes $100,000 through Monero cryptocurrency, according to the affidavit.