Couple sentenced to prison for trying to sell nuclear warship secrets

Bridget J. Sims

Nuclear warship

A Navy nuclear engineer and his spouse had been sentenced to over 19 decades and a lot more than 21 yrs in prison for making an attempt to promote nuclear warship structure secrets and techniques to what they considered was a foreign power agent. 

The two defendants, Jonathan and Diana Toebbe, however, tried out marketing limited data (this kind of as printouts, electronic media files made up of specialized aspects, and operations manuals) to an undercover FBI agent.

While working as a Navy nuclear engineer, Jonathan Toebbe had accessibility to naval nuclear propulsion details, including military services-sensitive structure factors, overall performance traits, and other limited information for nuclear-powered warship reactors.

He served as a nuclear engineer assigned to the Naval Nuclear Propulsion System of the Office of the Navy, which gave him accessibility to limited naval nuclear reactors data, offered that he also held an energetic national safety clearance via the U.S. Defense Office.

“Naval nuclear engineer Jonathan Toebbe was entrusted with our nation’s critical insider secrets and, along with his wife Diana Toebbe, set the security of our nation at hazard for money gain,” mentioned U.S. Attorney Cindy Chung on Wednesday.

“Their really serious criminal carry out betrayed and endangered the Section of the Navy’s faithful and selfless services members. The seriousness of the offense in this case can’t be overstated.”

The Toebbes pleaded responsible in February 2022 soon after staying arrested by the FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Assistance (NCIS) on Oct 9, 2021.

Undercover brokers and encrypted emails

The attempted trade of limited nuclear warship information commenced with a package sent to a foreign governing administration on April 1, 2020, made up of “U.S. Navy paperwork, a letter made up of recommendations,” and an SD card with call guidance by means of an encrypted conversation system.

The FBI attaché in the unspecified region educated the FBI, which initiated make contact with with Jonathan Toebbe in December 2020 by means of encrypted ProtonMail electronic mail through an undercover agent posing as a consultant of the undisclosed region, in accordance to court paperwork.

In the following electronic mail exchanges in between April and June 2021, the FBI confident the defendant to deliver extra confidential U.S. Navy information and facts to a “lifeless fall” spot in Jefferson County, West Virginia, immediately after agreeing to spend for it in Monero cryptocurrency.

“The samples will be encrypted making use of GnuPG symmetric encryption with a randomly created passphrase,” the defendant told the undercover agent by means of encrypted e mail. “I am pretty informed of the threats of blockchain examination of BitCoin and other cryptocurrencies, and think Monero provides equally us exceptional deniability.”

Ironically, he also expressed issue in communications with the FBI that he may possibly not be speaking with a foreign energy agent before agreeing to produce the encrypted documents at the dead fall locale.

“I am sorry to be so stubborn and untrusting, but I can not agree to go to a place of your picking. I should think about the possibility that I am communicating with an adversary who has intercepted my first concept and is making an attempt to expose me,” he stated.

“Would not these an adversary desire me to go to a put of his picking out, knowing that an beginner will be unlikely to detect his surveillance? If you insist on my bodily providing the offer, then it need to be a location of my deciding upon.”

Peanut butter sandwiches and chewing gum offers

On June 26, 2021, Jonathan Toebbe positioned an SD card hid in 50 % a peanut butter sandwich at a pre-arranged useless drop locale, with his partner performing as a lookout.

“On Aug. 28, Jonathan Toebbe manufactured a different ‘dead drop’ of an S.D. card in jap Virginia, this time concealing the card in a chewing gum bundle. Just after producing a payment to Toebbe of $70,000 in cryptocurrency, the FBI been given a decryption crucial for the card,” a Office of Justice press release states.

They had been both of those arrested after he sent a 3rd SD card at a pre-organized “useless fall” at one more area in West Virginia.

“If not for the remarkable initiatives of FBI agents, the sensitive details stolen by Mr. Toebbe could have finished up in the arms of an adversary of the United States and put the basic safety of our armed forces and our country at danger,” explained U.S. Lawyer William J. Ihlenfeld II.

“The Toebbes had been willing to compromise the protection of the nation by selling data similar to naval nuclear propulsion systems, they are now remaining held accountable for their steps,” FBI Distinctive Agent in Charge Mike Nordwall extra.

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