Husband and wife plead guilty to attempting to sell nuclear sub-secrets

Jonathan Toebbe (right) and Diana Toebbe (left) pleaded guilty to conspiring to sell nuclear secrets to a foreign government

Jonathan Toebbe (right) and Diana Toebbe (left) pleaded guilty to conspiring to sell nuclear secrets to a foreign government (Images: AP/Getty)

A couple on Tuesday pleaded guilty to attempting to sell classified secrets about nuclear submarines to a foreign government.

Jonathan Toebbe, a US naval engineer, and his wife Diana Toebbe pled guilty to conspiracy in federal court in West Virginia.

The Toebbes had already pleaded guilty in early August, but a judge dismissed the plea deal negotiated by prosecutors as “too lenient.”

Federal prosecutors are demanding 12 to 17 years in prison for Jonathan and 3 years for his wife. In addition, both defendants face fines of up to $100,000.

Jonathan is said to have smuggled intel on the Navy’s Virginia-class submarines — nuclear-attack submarines that carry missiles and can run for decades before surfacing to refuel.

Jonathan worked as a nuclear engineer on the submarines’ propulsion systems.

Den Toebbes are accused of violating the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, which restricts access to data on US nuclear secrets. Jonathan could face one of the longest sentences ever for breaking the law.

“A critical component of the country’s defenses has been irreparably compromised,” Vice Admiral William Houston told the court, the Baltimore Sun reported.

Houston, who commands the Atlantic submarine fleet, said Toebbe received “some of the most secure and sensitive information on our nuclear-powered fleet.”

The FBI said Toebbes’ program began in April 2020 after they sent a package containing Navy documents to a foreign government.

“Please forward this letter to your military intelligence. I believe this information will be of great value to your nation,” Jonathan said in a note included in the package. ‘This is not a hoax.’

Jonathan said he’s interested in selling Navy secrets — including operations manuals and performance reports. He included instructions on how to set up a backdoor communication channel with him.

The FBI has not disclosed which foreign country Jonathan contacted. The country’s foreign attaché notified the FBI and turned over his package in December 2020.

The Toebbes delivered the classified documents to a dead-drop location in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Diana reportedly served as a lookout at the sites to ensure their safety.

For about a year, Jonathan downloaded classified documents and stored them on SD cards, which he hid in items including a pack of gum and a peanut butter sandwich.

Jonathan told the undercover FBI agent that he had been gathering the information for years and smuggled it through security checkpoints “a few pages at a time” to avoid suspicion.

All along, the FBI was running an undercover sting operation. An agent posed as a representative of the foreign government and paid the Toebbes $100,000 in cryptocurrency for the documents.

Before their arrest in October 2021, Jonathan and Diana lived with their two children in suburban Annapolis, Maryland. When investigators searched her home, they found her children’s passports hidden in a “go-bag,” along with $11,000 in cash, a computer and a cryptocurrency wallet.

Diana retained her position as a teacher at an elite private school in Annapolis until her arrest. She originally pleaded not guilty, but changed her plea after her husband identified her as a co-conspirator in February.

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Justin Scacco

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