Couple sentenced to jail for attempting to promote nuclear warship secrets and techniques

Nuclear warship

A Navy nuclear engineer and his spouse have been sentenced to over 19 years and greater than 21 years in jail for trying to promote nuclear warship design secrets and techniques to what they believed was a overseas energy agent. 

The 2 defendants, Jonathan and Diana Toebbe, nevertheless, tried promoting restricted data (corresponding to printouts, digital media information containing technical particulars, and operations manuals) to an undercover FBI agent.

Whereas working as a Navy nuclear engineer, Jonathan Toebbe had entry to naval nuclear propulsion data, together with military-sensitive design components, efficiency traits, and different restricted information for nuclear-powered warship reactors.

He served as a nuclear engineer assigned to the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program of the Division of the Navy, which gave him entry to restricted naval nuclear reactors information, on condition that he additionally held an energetic nationwide safety clearance by way of the U.S. Protection Division.

“Naval nuclear engineer Jonathan Toebbe was entrusted with our nation’s vital secrets and techniques and, alongside together with his spouse Diana Toebbe, put the safety of our nation in danger for monetary acquire,” stated U.S. Lawyer Cindy Chung on Wednesday.

“Their severe prison conduct betrayed and endangered the Division of the Navy’s loyal and selfless service members. The seriousness of the offense on this case can’t be overstated.”

The Toebbes pleaded guilty in February 2022 after being arrested by the FBI and the Naval Felony Investigative Service (NCIS) on October 9, 2021.

Undercover brokers and encrypted emails

The tried alternate of restricted nuclear warship information started with a package deal despatched to a overseas authorities on April 1, 2020, containing “U.S. Navy paperwork, a letter containing directions,” and an SD card with contact directions by way of an encrypted communication platform.

The FBI attaché within the unspecified nation knowledgeable the FBI, which initiated contact with Jonathan Toebbe in December 2020 by way of encrypted ProtonMail e mail by way of an secret agent posing as a consultant of the undisclosed nation, based on court documents.

Within the following e mail exchanges between April and June 2021, the FBI satisfied the defendant to ship extra confidential U.S. Navy data to a “useless drop” location in Jefferson County, West Virginia, after agreeing to pay for it in Monero cryptocurrency.

“The samples shall be encrypted utilizing GnuPG symmetric encryption with a randomly generated passphrase,” the defendant informed the secret agent by way of encrypted e mail. “I’m very conscious of the dangers of blockchain evaluation of BitCoin and different cryptocurrencies, and imagine Monero offers each us wonderful deniability.”

Satirically, he additionally expressed concern in communications with the FBI that he won’t be speaking with a overseas energy agent earlier than agreeing to ship the encrypted paperwork on the useless drop location.

“I’m sorry to be so cussed and untrusting, however I cannot conform to go to a location of your selecting. I have to contemplate the chance that I’m speaking with an adversary who has intercepted my first message and is trying to reveal me,” he stated.

“Wouldn’t such an adversary want me to go to a spot of his selecting, understanding that an novice shall be unlikely to detect his surveillance? Should you insist on my bodily delivering the package deal, then it have to be a spot of my selecting.”

Peanut butter sandwiches and chewing gum packages

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

“On Aug. 28, Jonathan Toebbe made one other ‘useless drop’ of an S.D. card in jap Virginia, this time concealing the cardboard in a chewing gum package deal. After making a cost to Toebbe of $70,000 in cryptocurrency, the FBI obtained a decryption key for the cardboard,” a Division of Justice press launch says.

They have been each arrested after he delivered a 3rd SD card at a pre-arranged “useless drop” at one other location in West Virginia.

“If not for the exceptional efforts of FBI brokers, the delicate information stolen by Mr. Toebbe might have ended up within the fingers of an adversary of america and put the security of our army and our nation in danger,” stated U.S. Lawyer William J. Ihlenfeld II.

“The Toebbes have been prepared to compromise the safety of the nation by promoting data associated to naval nuclear propulsion programs, they’re now being held accountable for his or her actions,” FBI Particular Agent in Cost Mike Nordwall added.

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