CHARLES TOWN – An Annapolis, Maryland, couple twice used undisclosed locations in Jefferson County as document exchange sites in a plot to sell military secrets.
Jonathan Toebbe, 42, a nuclear engineer employed by the U.S. Navy, and his wife Diana Toebbe, 45, a humanities teacher at a private Annapolis school, were arrested Saturday in Jefferson County during a sting operation.
The couple twice used undisclosed locations in Jefferson County, including on Saturday, to deliver classified information on nuclear submarines, according to federal prosecutors.
The classified documents were hidden on high-capacity data storage cards left at pre-arranged “dead drop” site for what the couple thought was a foreign government agent.
The Toebbes’ scheme to sell submarine propulsion secrets allegedly began in April 2020. An introductory letter allegedly sent that first proposed the scheme stated, “I apologize for this poor translation into your language. Please forward this letter to your military intelligence agency. I believe this information will be of great value to your nation. This is not a hoax.”
A later message sent under the code name “Alice” stated: “This information was slowly and carefully collected over several years in the normal course of my job to avoid attracting attention and smuggled past security checkpoints a few pages at a time.”
Jonathan Toebbe worked on a naval program where he had access to information concerning naval nuclear propulsion, including information related to sensitive military designs. Federal prosecutors maintain that Toebbe continued this correspondence for several months, which led to an agreement to sell restricted data in exchange for thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency.
The plot continued through challenges posed by the pandemic, according to prosecutors. “Thank you for contacting me. I am still here,” Toebbe wrote under his code name to the undercover FBI agent on Feb. 10. “The covid disease has made it more difficult to find chances to check this email. Let us discuss how to proceed.”
Prosecutors outlined the following allegations in formal federal charges.
Although attempting to exchange documents electronically for digital cryptocurrency, the Toebbes allegedly transferred classified documents on data storage cards four times. Those transfers occurred twice in Jefferson County as well as in Pennsylvania and Virginia.
On June 10, the FBI sent $10,000 in cryptocurrency to Jonathan Toebbe as “good faith” payment. Sixteen days later, Jonathan Toebbes and his wife traveled to an undisclosed location in Jefferson County. There, with his wife acting as a lookout, Toebbe left a data-storage card concealed in a peanut butter sandwich inside a plastic bag at a pre-arranged “dead drop” location.
After retrieving the data card, the undercover agent sent Jonathan Toebbe a $20,000 payment in cryptocurrency.
On July 31, Toebbe and his wife drove to south-central Pennsylvania and allegedly dropped off another data card with hundreds of pages of schematics, drawings and other documents. The prosecutors said that card was hidden in a Band-Aid wrapper inside a Ziplock bag.
Then on Aug. 28, Jonathan Toebbe left more classified documents on a data card at a location in eastern Virginia. The data card was hidden in a chewing gum package.
After making a $70,000 payment to Toebbe in cryptocurrency, the FBI received a decryption code for the card.
Then on Saturday, the couple was arrested after leaving more documents at a pre-arranged second location in Jefferson County.
The Toebbes are charged with violations of the Atomic Energy Act. They were scheduled to have initial court appearances Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Martinsburg.