Married couple Jonathan and Diana Toebbe accused of trading nuclear submarine plans for cryptocurrency
Un ancien Marine américaine nuclear engineer pleaded guilty on espionage-related charges for allegedly trading closely held sous-marin secrets with FBI agents he believed worked for a foreign government.
Jonathan Toebbe, who was charged in a three-count indictment last year, pleaded guilty on 14 February to conspiring to transmit restricted data.
Mr Toebbe and his wife Diana Toebbe initially pleaded not guilty following their arrest in an alleged scheme in which he negotiated the trade of Virginia-class nuclear submarine plans – hidden in memory cards stored in a sandwich, a Band-Aid and a gum wrapper – for thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency, according to federal prosecutors.
They have remained in federal custody since their arrest in October.
As part of a plea agreement heard in US District Court in West Virginia, Mr Toebbe can be sentenced up to 17 years in prison and has agreed to assist federal investigators with recovering classified documents and cryptocurrency funds he received in exchange.
Ms Toebbe has repeatedly sought her release on bond, arguing that she did not know about her husband’s alleged plans. She also has argued for her release to care for the couple’s two school-aged children.
Her lawyers contend that there is “no dispute in this case that Mrs Toebbe went with her husband to three ‘dead drops’ that were apparently part of his scheme to sell classified information to some third country that so far remains unnamed” but “the issue in this case will be whether or not Mrs Toebbe was complicit in her husband’s alleged espionage scheme.”
Her husband also has said that his wife did not know what he was doing.
En décembre 2020, the FBI reportedly obtained a package intercepted by authorities but intended for another unnamed country containing operational manuals and other information – all marked “CONFIDENTIAL” – as well as instructions to communicate with the sender, in what appeared to be an attempt to establish a covert relationship, according to an affidavit filed on 8 octobre.
The FBI then allegedly posed as foreign officials to trade encrypted messages with the sender – alleged to be Mr Toebbe, a former naval engineer – using code names.
They negotiated dead-drop locations to hand over memory cards with reams of data in exchange for $100,000 in US dollars in the Monero cryptocurrency. Top-secret plans were reportedly stuffed inside a peanut butter sandwich, a Band-Aid and a chewing gum package.
At a detention hearing for Ms Toebbe on 20 octobre, prosecutors interviewed an FBI agent and presented photographs and videos taken by the FBI reportedly documenting the couple during dead drops.
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