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Navy nuclear engineer charged by trying to share secrets

The Justice Department announced Sunday that a Navy nuclear engineer who had access to military secrets was charged with trying pass information regarding the design of American nuclear powered submarines on to an individual he believed to be a representative from a foreign government, but turned out to actually be an undercover FBI agent.

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Navy nuclear engineer charged by trying to share secrets

The government filed a criminal complaint against Jonathan Toebbe alleging that he sold information over the past year to a contact who he believed represented foreign powers. The court documents did not mention the country.

According to the Justice Department, Toebbe, 42 years old, was arrested in West Virginia Saturday with his wife Diana, 45, after placing a removable memory chip at a prearranged dead drop in Jefferson County.

It was not immediately clear if either Toebbe employed a lawyer. The Toebbes hail from Annapolis, Maryland. Sunday's comment was not made by the Navy.

According to the FBI, the scheme started in April 2020 when Jonathan Toebbe, a Navy document holder, sent a package of documents to a foreign government. He stated that he was interested selling operation manuals and performance reports as well as other sensitive information.

According to authorities, he also gave instructions on how to conduct the furtive relationships. He sent a letter saying: "I am sorry for my poor translation into your language. This letter should be sent to your military intelligence agency. This information is of great value for your country, I believe. This isn't a hoax.

The package was delivered to the FBI's foreign office last December with a return address in Pittsburgh. This led to months of undercover operations in which an agent pretending to be a representative of the foreign country offered to pay thousands in cryptocurrency for the information Toebbe was providing.

According to the FBI, Toebbe received $10,000 in cryptocurrency from an undercover agent in June. He described it as a sign that he had good faith and trusted Toebbe.

According to the complaint, FBI agents observed the Toebbes arrive at a agreed-upon West Virginia location for the exchange the following week. Diana Toebbe appeared to be a watchdog for her husband during the dead drop operation. According to the complaint, the FBI found a blue SD Card wrapped in plastic and placed between two pieces of bread on a peanut-butter sandwich.

Toebbe was paid $20,000 by the FBI for the transaction. The contents of the SD Card were then provided to a Navy subject matter specialist who determined that the documents contained design elements and performance characteristics of Virginia class submarine reactors. According to the complaint, these submarines are nuclear-powered, sophisticated "cruise missile fast attack submarines."

An SD card contained a message written in type that stated, "I hope your experts were very happy with the sample supplied and I understand how important it is to exchange small amounts to grow our trust."

According to the complaint, similar dead-drop exchanges were conducted by the FBI over the next few months. One such exchange was in August in Virginia, in which Toebbe received $70,000 and hidden an SD card inside a chewing gum packet.

The complaint claims violations of the Atomic Energy Act. This Act restricts disclosure of information about atomic weapons and nuclear materials.

The Toebbes will make their first court appearance Tuesday in Martinsburg (West Virginia).

According to the FBI, Jonathan Toebbe is a U.S. government employee since 2012. He holds a top-secret security clearance, and specializes in naval nuclear propulsion. Officials say he has been assigned to a Pittsburgh laboratory that works on nuclear power for U.S. Navy.

On Sunday afternoon, no one answered the door at the Toebbe residence in Annapolis, a community near the South River. A dog barked in the house, while an outside light was shining above their front door.

John Cooley, who lives next to the Toebbes said that he counted more then 30 FBI agents on his street on Saturday, from around 2:30 p.m. to after dark. According to him, agents entered the house.

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