Couple Charged with Attempting to Sell Nuclear Sub Secrets Appear in Court, Remain in Custody for Now

·2 min read
Jonathan Toebbe and Diana Toebbe
Jonathan Toebbe and Diana Toebbe

West Virginia Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority/AP/Shutterstock Jonathan and Diana Toebbe

The Maryland couple accused of an elaborate espionage scheme involving U.S. nuclear submarine secrets will remain behind bars for now, a judge ruled on Tuesday.

Jonathan and Diana Toebbe, who were taken into custody on Saturday, appeared in federal court in Martinsburg, West Virginia, records show.

Both Jonathan, 42, and Diana, 45, have been charged with conspiracy to communicate restricted data and communication of restricted data. (Neither has entered pleas to the charges against them. Their attorneys did not immediately respond to requests for comment.)

Prosecutors allege in court documents that Jonathan, a nuclear engineer living in Annapolis and working for the Navy, sent information — with his wife's help — about the "design of nuclear-powered warships to a person they believed was a representative of a foreign power."

There was no representative — instead, the recipient was an undercover FBI agent, according to prosecutors.

Jonathan Toebbe
Jonathan Toebbe

West Virginia Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority/AP/Shutterstock Jonathan Toebbe

On Tuesday, Magistrate Judge Robert Trumble ordered the couple to remain in custody pending a hearing later this week when prosecutors and defenders will make more extensive arguments, the court docket shows.

During the undercover operation, Jonathan allegedly said he would accept $100,000 worth of cryptocurrency in exchange for access to restricted government documents.

In June, he said he was "ready to move forward" with the deal, prosecutors claim.

The FBI said agents observed Jonathan dropping documents at an agreed-upon location in Jefferson County, West Virginia. The agency identified him as a nuclear engineer with an active top secret security clearance through the Department of Defense and an active Q clearance from the Department of Energy.

Diana Toebbe
Diana Toebbe

West Virginia Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority/AP/Shutterstock Diana Toebbe

According to the criminal complaint, Jonathan's wife was allegedly standing "approximately one meter away" from her husband during the dead drop and appeared to be acting as a lookout.

Once the couple left, the FBI found an SD card placed at the location by Jonathan, according to prosecutors. It was hidden inside a plastic bag-wrapped peanut butter sandwich, the court documents state.

According to the Associated Press, Magistrate Judge Trumble said Tuesday that both Jonathan and Diana could face life in prison if convicted.