Navy engineer accused of trying to sell US secrets appears in court

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Navy engineer accused of trying to sell US secrets appears in court

The Navy engineer accused of trying to sell secrets about US nuclear submarines using a peanut-butter sandwich made his first appearance in federal court Tuesday along with his alleged accomplice wife.

Jonathan Toebbe, 42, and his teacher spouse Diana, 45, wore orange jumpsuits and blue face masks as they faced a judge in Martinsburg, W.Va., for a formal reading of the criminal charges against them.

Neither defendant spoke during the brief hearing, other than to answer the judge’s questions indicating they understood their rights.

The pair, who live in Annapolis, Md., also did not have lawyers present, and US Magistrate Judge Robert Trumble informed them they qualify for court-appointed attorneys.

The Toebbes will remain in jail pending a detention hearing scheduled for Friday.

A Federal Protection Service vehicle is seen parked outside the federal courthouse where former U.S. Navy engineer Jonathan Toebbe and his wife Diana face their first court hearing on charges that they attempted to sell secrets about nuclear submarines to a foreign power in exchange for cryptocurrency, in Martinsburg, West Virginia, U.S. October 12, 2021.
A Federal Protection Service vehicle is seen parked outside the federal courthouse as former US Navy engineer Jonathan Toebbe and his wife, Diana face their first court hearing in Martinsburg, West Virginia.
Kevin Fogarty/REUTERS

The couple was arrested Saturday by FBI agents following a yearlong sting operation.

The feds allege that Jonathan Toebbe — a nuclear engineer with top-secret security clearance — sent a package of restricted Navy documents and other materials to an unnamed foreign country in April 2020, along with instructions for how to obtain additional information.

Over the course of several months Toebbe, with the help of his wife, allegedly peddled additional military secrets to an undercover FBI agent posing as a foreign official in exchange for $100,000 in cryptocurrency.

According to a criminal complaint, Toebbe once stashed the hush-hush data about US submarine nuclear reactors on a blue, plastic-coated SD memory card — then sandwiched the tiny device between two slabs of bread slathered with peanut butter.

Jonathan Toebbe and his wife Diana were arrested and charged with passing nuclear submarine secrets to a foreign government.
Jonathan Toebbe and his wife Diana were arrested and charged with passing nuclear submarine secrets to a foreign government.
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He also allegedly used a Band-Aid wrapper and pack of chewing gum to help hide SD cards at other times.

His wife, a teacher at a progressive private school in Annapolis, allegedly acted as the lookout, the Justice Department said.

The wannabe spies were bagged after placing another memory card at a drop site in Jefferson County, WV — and have been accused by the FBI of violating the Atomic Energy Act.

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