Former U.S. Nuclear Engineer and Wife Arrested on Espionage Charges

On October 9, 2021, former nuclear engineer for the U.S. Navy engineer Jonathan Toebbe and his wife Diana Toebbe were arrested on espionage charges. According to federal law enforcement, the couple are accused of attempting to sell United States technological secrets “concerning the design of nuclear powered warships” to an unknown foreign entity. According to investigators, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) received a package in December 2020 intended for a foreign country containing U.S. Navy documents, a letter, and instructions on how to conduct encrypted communications with the person offering the information. FBI agents then posed as representatives from the foreign country and communicated with Toebbe. As email records have shown, Toebbe allegedly asked for $100,000 worth of cryptocurrency. FBI agents convinced Toebbe to conduct several “dead drops” of encrypted information in Secure Digital cards and made payments of $10,000 or $20,000 upon receiving the drop offs. After observing Toebbe and his wife at several drop off locations, the FBI arrested the couple in West Virginia. According to court papers, the information turned over by Toebbe included details of the design, operations, and performance of Virginia-class nuclear submarine reactors. This constitutes a serious information breach, since such submarines cost roughly $3 billion each to build and are among the most secretly held information by the U.S. Navy. On October 12, Toebbe and his wife made their initial appearance in a federal court in Martinsburg, West Virginia.

By: Arielsie Li