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Former Navy Nuclear Engineer, Wife charged with Espionage

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Oct 2021, Arrest warrants were issued for Jonathan Toebbe and his wife Diana.

The accusations: Espionage.

Initially the Toebbes pleaded not guilty.

This week they pleaded guilty and a plea bargain is in the works.

Maryland Nuclear Engineer and his wife indicted on national security charges

MARTINSBURG, WEST VIRGINIA – Jonathan and Diana Toebbe, both of Annapolis, Maryland, were indicted today by a Grand Jury in Elkins, West Virginia, on national security charges, United States Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld, II announced.

Jonathan, 42, and Diana 45, are each charged with one count of “Conspiracy to Communicate Restricted Data” and two counts of “Communication of Restricted Data.” The charges come after a complaint was filed and the Toebbes were arrested on October 9, 2021.

For almost a year, Jonathan Toebbe, aided by his wife, Diana, sold information known as Restricted Data concerning the design of nuclear-powered warships to a person they believed was a representative of a foreign power.  In actuality, that person was an undercover FBI agent. The Toebbes had previously been charged in a criminal complaint alleging violations of the Atomic Energy Act.

Jonathan Toebbe is an employee of the Department of the Navy who served as a nuclear engineer and was assigned to the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, also known as Naval Reactors. He held an active national security clearance through the U.S. Department of Defense, giving him access to Restricted Data. 

Toebbe worked with and had access to information concerning naval nuclear propulsion including information related to military sensitive design elements, operating parameters, and performance characteristics of the reactors for nuclear powered warships.

The indictment alleges that on April 1, 2020, Jonathan Toebbe sent a package to a foreign government, listing a return address in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, containing a sample of Restricted Data and instructions for establishing a covert relationship to purchase additional Restricted Data. The indictment also alleges that, thereafter, Toebbe began corresponding via encrypted email with an individual whom he believed to be a representative of the foreign government. The individual was really an undercover FBI agent.  Jonathan Toebbe continued this correspondence for several months, which led to an agreement to sell Restricted Data in exchange for thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency. 

On June 8, 2021, the undercover agent sent $10,000 in cryptocurrency to Jonathan Toebbe as “good faith” payment.  Shortly afterwards, on June 26, 2021, Jonathan and Diana Toebbe traveled to a location in West Virginia.  There, with Diana Toebbe acting as a lookout, Jonathan Toebbe placed an SD card concealed within half a peanut butter sandwich at a pre-arranged “dead drop” location.  After retrieving the SD card, the undercover agent sent Jonathan Toebbe a $20,000 cryptocurrency payment.  In return, Jonathan Toebbe emailed the undercover agent a decryption key for the SD Card.  A review of the SD card revealed that it contained Restricted Data related to submarine nuclear reactors.  On August 28, 2021, Jonathan Toebbe made another “dead drop” of an SD card in eastern Virginia, this time concealing the card in a chewing gum package.  After making a payment to Toebbe of $70,000 in cryptocurrency, the FBI received a decryption key for the card.  It, too, contained Restricted Data related to submarine nuclear reactors.  The FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) arrested Jonathan and Diana Toebbe on October 9, after he placed yet another SD card at a pre-arranged “dead drop” at a second location in West Virginia.

The FBI and the NCIS investigated.


From October 2012 to the present, JONATHAN TOEBBE has worked on matters of naval nuclear propulsion. JONATHAN TOEBBE has been assigned to the Reactor Engineering Division of the U.S. Navy, which is responsible for new and operating reactor plant noise and vibration technology and for assisting with reactor plant shock technology and design, manufacturing, and testing. JONATHAN TOEBBE has also been assigned to Bettis Atomic

Power Laboratory, a U.S. Government-owned research and development facility in the Pittsburgh suburb of West Mifflin, Pennsylvania that works exclusively on the design and development of nuclear power for the U.S. Navy. During one or both of these assignments, JONATHAN TOEBBE had access to the U.S. Navy information passed in both the physical letter to COUNTRY 1 as well as the electronic U.S. Navy information passed in the dead drops on June 26, 2021, and August 28, 2021, which is described below in paragraphs 52-64.

On September 28, 2017, JONATHAN TOEBBE was released/discharged from Active Duty and maintained a reserve obligation termination date of July 23, 2020. The reason listed for his separation was that JONATHAN TOEBBE completed his required active service.

On March 25, 2020, JONATHAN TOEBBE’s TS clearance was renewed. This renewal was just days before the April 1, 2020 postmark date on the package sent to COUNTRY 1.

From or about an unknown date but no later than on or about April 1, 2020, through on or about October 9, 2021, in Jefferson County, West Virginia, within the Northern District of West Virginia, and elsewhere, the defendants, JONATHAN TOEBBE and DIANA TOEBBE, lawfully and unlawfully having possession of, access to, control over, and being entrusted with a document, writing, sketch, plan, note, and information involving and incorporating Restricted Data militarily sensitive design elements, operating parameters, and performance characteristics of Virginia-class submarine reactors, did unlawfully and knowingly communicate, transmit, and disclose the same to another person with the intent to injure the United States and to secure an advantage to a foreign nation.

Initially Toebbe pleaded not guilty. He has just pleaded guilty.

Below the full FBI sting that reads like a Spy novel.


I, Justin Van Tromp, being first duly sworn, hereby depose and state as follows: INTRODUCTION AND AGENT BACKGROUND

1. I make this affidavit in support of a Criminal Complaint alleging that the defendants, JONATHAN TOEBBE and DIANA TOEBBE, have violated 42 U.S.C. §2274(a).

2. 1 am a Special Agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) assigned to the FBI Pittsburgh Field Office. I have been a Special Agent with the FBI since May 2018. 1 completed Special Agent training at the FBI training center in Quantico, Virginia, in September 2018, which includes curriculum on conducting counterintelligence and counterproliferation investigations. Upon graduation from the FBI academy, I have been assigned to work counterintelligence investigations and have been working multiple cases involving economic espionage. Prior to joining the FBI, I was employed by the United States Secret Service as a Special Agent for 11 years. As a U.S. Secret Service agent, I worked financial crimes investigations and served on the Presidential Protective Division. During that time, I also worked on the Joint Terrorism Task Force at the FBI’s Washington Field Office and conducted complex counterterrorism investigations. Prior to that, I was employed as a Special Agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, working counterintelligence and general criminal investigations.

3. The facts in this affidavit come from my personal investigation and observations, my training and experience, and information obtained from other agents and witnesses. This affidavit is intended to show simply that there is sufficient probable cause for this Criminal Complaint and the requested arrest warrants and does not set forth all of my knowledge about this matter. I have set forth only the facts I believe are necessary to establish probable cause that the defendants have violated 42 U.S.C. § 2274(a).

The FBI Retrieves Package Containing U.S. Navy Documents from LEGAT in COUNTRY1

6. On or about December 20, 2020, the FBI’s attaché (“LEGAT”) in COUNTRY1 obtained a package representatives from COUNTRY1 had received in April 2020 through a mail carrier from the U.S. by an unidentified subject in an attempt to establish a covert relationship. The package contained U.S. Navy documents, a letter containing instructions, and an SD card containing specific instructions on how COUNTRY1 should respond using an encrypted communication platform, and additional documents.

7. In the letter, the sender stated a desire to sell documents containing U.S. Navy information marked CONFIDENTIAL that included printouts, digital media files containing technical details, operations manuals, and performance reports. The letter requested the transmission of the enclosed technical data to COUNTRY 1’s military intelligence agency.

8. The package that contained the material described above was a brown envelope with four U.S. postage stamps, a postal barcode, and a sent date of April 1, 2020. The return address was identified as a location in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

9. A subject-matter expert at the U.S. Navy with knowledge of the documents included in the package sent to COUNTRY I informed the FBI that these documents were U.S. Government documents that contained Restricted Data.

The FBI Begins Undercover Communication with “ALICE”

15. On February 10, 2021, “ALICE” responded and stated, “Thank you for contacting me. I am still here. The covid disease has made it more difficult to find chances to check this email.

16. On February 24, 2021, an FBI agent acting in an undercover capacity (“the UC”) responded and stated, “We understand the delay and hope you are well. Our experts reviewed the information you provided. We would like as sample your [US. Navy Information — Spec~flc Sections].’ We have a trusted friend in your country who has a gjft for you to compensate for your efforts. . .


36. Following the servicing of the dead drop location, both JONATHAN TOEBBE and DIANA TOEBBE were observed walking through a more populated area near the location of the dead drop. From my experience and training, it appeared that both JONATHAN TOEBBE and DIANA TOEBBE were conducting surveillance detection routes, meaning that they were moving in a way to attempt to detect whether they were being surveilled or followed.

37. In total, the FBI observed JONATHAN TOEBBE and/or DIANA TOEBBE arrive in the location of the dead drop at approximately 9:44 a.m. and depart the location at approximately 11:22 a.m. During this approximate time frame, the FBI observed a vehicle registered to JONATHAN TOEBBE parked in a visitor’s lot.

38. Later on the same date, June 26, 2021, the FBI recovered a blue 16GB SanDisk SD Card left by JONATHAN TOEBBE at the dead drop location. The SD card was wrapped in plastic and placed between two slices of bread on a half of a peanut butter sandwich. The half sandwich was housed inside of a plastic bag. FOR THE FULL COMPLAINT:

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