Navy Engineer, Wife Accused of Selling US Military Secrets

Navy Engineer, Wife Accused of Selling US Military Secrets

( – The FBI began working on an undercover operation to reveal a spy in US Navy ranks sometime in early 2021. They finally wrapped up the case after months of elaborate communication and clandestine conversation with the suspect. The agency arrested Johnathan Toebbe and his wife, Diana, on October 9.

Case History

The FBI says they were first tipped off when an undisclosed foreign country reported receiving sensitive documents from Toebbe in April 2020. They immediately launched an almost year-long operation to gather evidence on the Navy engineer-turned-spy, Johnathan Toebbe.

In December 2020, an undercover operative posed as a spokesperson for an unnamed foreign government. The agent communicated with Toebbe through Protonmail, an allegedly anonymous and encrypted email service, over the course of several months. Their goal was to develop a trustworthy relationship with the Navy engineer — and it worked.

Setting the Stage

Toebes remained highly cautious at first, and in many ways, resisted the undercover agent’s attempts to convince him to deliver US Navy submarine tech secrets in person. In fact, the agency had to issue $70,000 worth of cryptocurrency payments to the engineer before he would agree to trade top-secret information on US submarine technology.

Even then, Toebbe continued to refuse to make a physical appearance anywhere with damning evidence. It took several months of negotiation to talk him into a “dead drop” agreement.

Once the FBI operative established a routine with the man, Toebbe’s clandestine efforts to secure a bit of cash in exchange for military secrets began to fall apart. The agency nailed down when and where they could find the engineer.

By October 9, the FBI had enough evidence to officially arrest the alleged traitor. They arrested Johnathan Toebbe and his wife Diana, who reportedly served as his lookout, the same day.

Crime Doesn’t Pay

Collected evidence shows that the would-be spy attempted to sell US Navy secrets during multiple exchanges. Specifically, documents sold to the “foreign country” representative (in this case, a secret FBI agent working undercover) contained classified articles related to silent running techniques as well as the exact specifications of American Virginia-class nuclear submarines.

It isn’t clear exactly what motivated Toebbe to take the plunge and attempt to reach out to a foreign country in the first place. The FBI did confirm that the Navy engineer held special clearance to access top-secret or confidential information at the time of his crimes. He also attempted to cover his tracks with the use of encryption.

The duo’s first court hearing is scheduled for the 12th. Charges of espionage will likely follow if prosecutors can effectively prove the case. What isn’t clear is just how many counts they might lay on the couple for the months-long exchanges. With a maximum sentence of 10 years per conviction, they’ll almost certainly spend at least some time in the “big house.”

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