Navy Nuclear Engineer Pleads Guilty to Attempting to Sell Sub Secrets

February 14, 2022 6:04 PM
211126-N-ME396-1050 GROTON, Conn. (Nov. 26, 2021) Tugboats guide USS Minnesota (SSN 783) to the pier as the Virginia-class nuclear-powered fast-attack submarine returns to Naval Submarine Base New London following a regularly-scheduled deployment. U.S. Navy Photo

An Annapolis, Md., man pleaded guilty Monday to attempting to give confidential information about the Virginia-class submarine to an unnamed country.

Jonathan Toebbe appeared in the District Court of Northern West Virginia at 3 p.m. to plea guilty to conspiracy to communicate restricted data. The FBI arrested Toebbe and his wife Diana in October after the agency built a case against him, suggesting he was attempting to sell restricted material to another country.

Toebbe likely now faces a sentence of between 12.5 and 17.5 years, unless the court chooses to not accept the plea deal, in which case Toebbe will also be allowed to withdraw his plea.
Toebbe and his wife were each charged with one count of conspiracy to communicate restricted data and communication of restricted material. Toebbe was an employee of the Department of the Navy, serving as a nuclear engineer with the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program.

Over the course of eight months – from October 2020 to April 2021 – Toebbe attempted to give classified documents about the Virginia-class submarine to another country, which has not been named, Toebbe said during his plea hearing.

Toebbe originally sent a package of information to the unnamed country, offering to start a relationship in which Toebbe would send more classified documents in exchange for cryptocurrency, USNI News previously reported.

The country sent the proposal package to the FBI, which then posed as agents of the unspecified country. The agency set up multiple exchanges with Toebbe, during which he would place a flash drive in various objects, including a peanut butter sandwich, a gum package and a bandaid.

The flash drive included typed messages from Toebbe, as well as information for how to access the restricted data once Toebbe received payment.

As part of the plea deal, Toebbe will allow the government to search all of his electronic devices and accounts, as well as help federal officials find all of the classified and restricted data he possessed.

Toebbe will also assist the federal officials in finding the $100,000 in cryptocurrency that the FBI paid Toebbe in exchange for his information while the FBI agents posed as officials from the unnamed country.

Toebbe’s wife, Diana, still faces her two charges. While she did not plea guilty, the facts of Toebbe’s plea deal include that Diana Toebbe acted as a lookout while he conducted the dead drops.

Heather Mongilio

Heather Mongilio

Heather Mongilio is a reporter with USNI News. She has a master’s degree in science journalism and has covered local courts, crime, health, military affairs and the Naval Academy.
Follow @hmongilio

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