The nuclear engineer tried to sell critical data to a foreign government

FBI revealed the espionage plans when the engineer sold confidential information to an undercover agent instead of a foreign government

Ex navy engineer and his wife arrestedPeanutbutter sandwich containing the SD card with critical Navy details got engineer and his wife arrested for espionage plan

Navy nuclear engineer, with help from his wife, got arrested for violations of the Atomic Energy Act.[1] The couple faces espionage-related charges since the couple communicated with an alleged foreign power agent interested in buying the nuclear-power warship design data. Jonathan and Diana Toebbe got arrested after they sold this critical information to an FBI agent instead.[2] The information package included printouts, digital media files, technical details, operations manuals, and performance reports.

The defendant Jonathan served as the engineer assigned to the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program helped him access the restricted data. Military sensitive data, operating parameters, other details on reactors can be valuable for foreign governments and various other actors, so this was the aim of defendants – to make money from the information.

On April 2020, Jonathan sent the sample of accessible details to an unnamed person with the alleged message:

I apologize for this poor translation into your language. Please forward this letter to your military intelligence agency. I believe this information will be of great value to your nation. This is not a hoax.

Then the relationship was formed over email. Engineer believed to be contacting the foreign government agent. The Department of Justice informs that the message contained US Navy documents, a letter with instructions on communicating via the encrypted platform. However, the particular receiver told the FBI, and agents contacted Jonathan Toebbe.[3]

The communication lasted close to a year

The undercover FBI agent contacted the defendant via encrypted ProtonMail email on December 2020, posing as the representative of the particular country(COUNTRY 1). In these emails exchanged between April and June 2021, the agents asked the engineer to provide additional confidential information related to US Navy to a dead drop location. After the requested Monero cryptocurrency[4] payment of $10,000, Toebbe agreed and delivered the package to a place in Jefferson County, West Virginia.

The agreement emails listed all the details about particular data:

The samples will be encrypted using GnuPG symmetric encryption with a randomly generated passphrase. I will tell you the location and how to find the card. I will also give you a Monero address. I am very aware of the risks of blockchain analysis of BitCoin and other cryptocurrencies and believe Monero gives both us excellent deniability.

The husband and wife traveled to the exact place. When Diana was set on a lookout, Jonathan placed the peanut butter sandwich with the SD storage card containing the 16GB of data, at the drop site. FBI agent retrieved the package and sent another $20,000 in cryptocurrency to Toebbe. Once the payment was transferred, the engineer couple provided the agent with a decryption key to access the SD card.

The FBI and NCIS investigations are still ongoing

The legitimacy of provided information was verified, and the second drop of $70,000 in Monero got arranged. This time the SD was put in a packet of chewing gum. The pair got arrested in the following drop zone on October 9 by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the FBI. Toebbes are waiting for the trial and are due to appear in court on October 12 to face the charges of conspiracy to communicate restricted data and transfer critical details.[5]

Even though the engineer was concerned about the possibility of getting exposed, he agreed to deliver the encrypted documents and chosen the place himself where both spouses left the packages. Biography of the former lieutenant in the Navy revealed that Johnathan had been awarded medals, and the last award was gotten from the military on December 19, 2020. The defendants violated the Atomic Energy Act, but final charges and penalties may be revealed after the court on the 12th.

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Jake Doevan
Jake Doevan - Computer technology expert

Jake Doevan is one of News Editors for He graduated from the Washington and Jefferson College , Communication and Journalism studies.

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