Navy nuclear engineer charged with trying to pass secrets

| October 11, 2021 | 91 Comments

Fox News reports;

A Navy nuclear engineer with access to military secrets has been charged with trying to pass information about the design of American nuclear-powered submarines to someone he thought was a representative of a foreign government but who turned out to be an undercover FBI agent, the Justice Department said Sunday.

In a criminal complaint detailing espionage-related charges against Jonathan Toebbe, the government said he sold information for nearly the past year to a contact he believed represented a foreign power. That country was not named in the court documents.

Toebbe, 42, was arrested in West Virginia on Saturday along with his wife, Diana, 45, after he had placed a removable memory card at a prearranged “dead drop” in the state, according to the Justice Department.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the Toebbes, who are from Annapolis, Maryland, have lawyers. The Navy declined to comment Sunday.

The FBI says the scheme began in April 2020 when Jonathan Toebbe sent a package of Navy documents to a foreign government and wrote that he was interested in selling to that country operations manuals, performance reports and other sensitive information.

Authorities say he also provided instructions for how to conduct the furtive relationship, with a letter that said: “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.”

That package, which had a return address in Pittsburgh, was obtained by the FBI last December through its legal attache office in the unspecified foreign country. That led to a monthslong undercover operation in which an agent posing as a representative of the foreign government made contact with Toebbe an agreed to pay thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency for the information he was offering.

In June, the FBI says, the undercover agent sent $10,000 in cryptocurrency to Toebbe, describing it as a sign of good faith and trust.

Weeks later, federal agents watched as the Toebbes arrived at an agreed-upon location in West Virginia for the exchange, with Diana Toebbe appearing to serve as a lookout for her husband during a dead-drop operation for which the FBI paid $20,000, according to the complaint. The FBI recovered a blue memory card wrapped in plastic and placed between two slices of bread on a peanut butter sandwich, court documents say.

The FBI provided the contents of the memory card to a Navy subject matter expert, who determined that the records included design elements and performance characteristics of Virginia-class submarine reactors, the Justice Department said.

Those submarines are sophisticated, nuclear-powered “cruise missile fast-attack submarines,” according to the complaint.

The memory card also included a typed message that said, in part: “I hope your experts are very happy with the sample provided and I understand the importance of a small exchange to grow our trust.”

The FBI conducted similar dead-drop exchanges over the next several months, including one in August in Virginia in which Toebbe concealed in a chewing gum package a memory card that contained schematic designs for the Virginia-class submarine and was paid roughly $70,000, according to court documents.

The complaint alleges violations of the Atomic Energy Act, which restricts the disclosure of information related to atomic weapons or nuclear materials.

The Toebbes are expected to have their initial court appearances Tuesday in Martinsburg, West Virginia.

Jonathan Toebbe has worked for the U.S. government since 2012, holding a top-secret security clearance and specializing in naval nuclear propulsion, the FBI says. He has also been assigned to a government-owned laboratory in the Pittsburgh area that officials say works on nuclear power for the U.S. Navy.

No one answered at the Toebbe residence on Sunday afternoon in a waterside Annapolis community by the South River. An outside light was on above the door of their home, and a dog barked inside.

John Cooley, who lives across the street from the Toebbes, said he counted more than 30 FBI agents on his block on Saturday from about 2:30 p.m. until after dark. He said agents went inside the home.

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are unavailable for comment.

Category: Crime, Navy

Comments (91)

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  1. FC2 (SW) Ron says:

    Execution for espionage needs a comeback. I was in at the height of the Walker spy ring and remember just how much damage he did. Michael Walker was arrested on the Nimitz when we arrived in the Med in ’85. It’s all about money and greed.

  2. Ex-PH2 says:

    This was in my morning newspaper. I meant to post it, but Mason beat me to it, which is fine with me.

    There is a bunch of stuff going on that comes up and is real news, but it never seems to appear online, when it should. So much for the online networks being superior.

  3. NR Pax says:

    Why do they always give the information to the Feds? You’d think they want to get arrested. It’s a simple observation: The foreign agent who wants to buy your secrets is a fed.

  4. Claw says:

    Hope somebody is doing a check on the dog left in the house.

    Anyway, FRPR* score on the Whiz Wheel®™ for Jonathan (either Nelson or Smay) Toebbe is 296.

    Full Retard Past Rutabaga (H/T to API®™)

  5. nobunny says:

    I love the amateurish way he initiated the contact by just up and mailing a bunch of stuff to the country. Should have read a Clancy novel or two.

    Dear China, I got this stuff for you. I like you.
    Do you like me too?

    [] yes (please send $$$)
    [] no
    [] maybe

    • SFC D says:

      I’m willing to bet that note was found on Hunter’s laptop.

    • Mason says:

      Which means this other country turned him in. That makes it even better. Which country do you suppose he tried? It’s a short list of countries you have to assume he’d think would be amenable. China, North Korea, or Iran. One of those turned on him instead of paying him. Hilarious.

      • 5JC says:

        France? They had this thing about aubs…

      • nobunny says:

        Can you imagine the reaction in whatever office received it? Wonder if he mailed it in US Mail packaging – ol’ red, white, and blue allllll over it. Subtle. Devious. He dropped that thing in the mail and started rubbing his hands together. What are we gonna do with the money, honey?

        I’m guessing China. What could the Norks offer? Some really awful recipe suggestions, maybe. At least Iran has that black gold. 5JC said France. They did get their panties in a twist recently over a sub deal that went tits up. Or so they say…

      • RGR 4-78 says:

        They may not want to pay good yen for something they already have.

      • LC says:

        Almost certainly not North Korea or Iran, given that the complaint suggests the US arranged for a signal from the foreign country’s building (embassy, I assume) in Washington, DC on Memorial Day weekend.

        • Mason says:

          Agree with you, RGR 4-78, and nobunny, this has China written all over it. Perhaps Russia, but I fail to see what he thinks he could give them. Which could be why they turned on him.

          • LC says:

            China is absolutely a possibility. I’d not rule out a few other options, too. India being one of them – their “Project 75 Alpha” initiative is focused on building nuclear attack subs, presumably like the Virginia-class subs we have.


            There’s a variety of reasons for why they could be attractive, too, and under less scrutiny than China. But they’re also friendly with the US.

            One of the biggest curiosities to me is that the foreign country received the package in April, and didn’t give it to the US until December. So whoever it was seemed tempted, or wasn’t sure how to approach us. Hoping we learn more in the weeks ahead.

    • DavidatWork17 says:

      The direct approach has worked for a surprising number of insider threats. Many of the worst ones do exactly that. The Soviets were appropriately cautious about volunteers who would just walk right into the embassy, but if you brought data they could verify with a second source, they’d start listening and paying.

  6. President Elect Toxic Deplorable Racist SAH Neanderthal B Woodman Domestic Violent Extremist SuperStraight says:

    Normally I’d wax scathing about another FiBbIe sting, but it seems that The Good Semen made the first (idiotic) move.

    What happens to them next?
    “Toebbe, or not Toebbe, that is the question…..”

    Hie thee hence and read the rest of Shakespeare’s poetry. It fits.

    • MarineDad61 says:

      The answer….
      Toebbe (pronounced tebby(?)).

      Coming soon (from Kyrgyzstan), the long awaited sequel to
      Debbie Does Dallas,
      appropriately titled
      Toebbe Does Talas.

  7. Veritas Omnia Vincit says:

    Hang them both, on Pay Per View.

    Then dump their bodies in the ocean tied to a few cinder blocks…

    Let no one remember them, rat bastard traitors that they are.

  8. A Proud Infidel®™ says:

    1. Rope.
    2. Tree or Gallows.
    3. Traitor.
    Some assembly required.

  9. 5JC says:

    So as it turns out they are big supporters of leftist/ Marxist causes such as BLM, and of course THE ORANGE MAN IS BAD!!!!!

    Here is my surprised face:


  10. WOW, the fbi actually doing their job after all the dishonest stuff they did in the past against Pres. Trump and his supporters AKA Gen Flynn and others. I figured that maybe that they were in on the $$$$$$$$ take.

  11. Poetrooper says:

    Although MarineDad61 will no doubt castigate ol’ Poe for his source, here’s a bit of visual evidence re the BLM support:

    • MarineDad61 says:

      Not this time.
      In fact, for this article,
      The Gateway Pundit followed and echoed Daily Mail UK and FoxNews,
      put out much less than Fox,
      and linked to their Daily Mail source.

      (See Twist comment right above yours for the article from FoxNews.)

      The problem is when The Gateway Pundit
      leads the way with their own original articles…
      … and then others on the fringe fall for it.

      So, you don’t need to poke or prompt me.

      • Poetrooper says:

        MD61, I’ll just have to take your word for it in the case extant. No doubt, due to your callow youth, you have the distinct advantage on an’ ol’ tech-challenged ol’ dawg like ol’ Poe when it comes to navigating this wondrous invention of Al Gore’s.

        Hell, I’m such a Luddite Miz Poe has to remind me to take my mobile phone in with me when we go to Walmart, in case I wander off in search of who knows what, about the only true application I have for that infernal device…😖

        • MarineDad61 says:

          Well, here’s an example from TODAY.

          Raiders coach Jon Gruden resigned today,
          due to his emails.
          Yes, he emailed this about (VP) Biden, back in 2012,
          but Gruden also emailed the same thing about multiple NFL officials, and emailed WORSE things about others involved in the NFL as well.

          It’s really about what Gruden emailed about the NFL types,
          not the gravy add of Obama and Biden 9 years ago.

          So, when the The Gateway Pundit headline
          makes it all about the Biden email (which it’s NOT),
          it’s pure political misdirection
          (from sports to politics) bullshit.

          But of course, no one reads The Gateway Pundit for sports.

          [Raiders Coach Resigns After Leaked Emails Show
          He Called Joe Biden a “Nervous Clueless Pus*y”]

        • nobunny says:

          Cat food, Poe. You need cat food, and more toys, for your kitten.

        • MarineDad61 says:

          So you know,
          I took Typing 1 in 12th grade (late 70s),
          anticipating possible need with computers (in the future),
          and mostly to sit in a class full of females
          from 10th, 11th, and 12th grades.
          22 females, 2 males.

          Nailed the IBM Selectric III over 40 years ago.
          Never slammed my fingers with the font ball.
          To this day, good with full sized keyboards. And PCs.
          I suck with cellphones.
          I suck with cats, too.

          • Poetrooper says:

            MD61, young Poe was a bit of a super-achiever in the Army enlisted ranks, the honor graduate of the numerous specialty schools to which his superiors sent him, including the fairly difficult Staff NCO CBR Course at the Army Chemical School at Fort McClellan.

            But with one glaring exception:

            After only a few days, the SFC instructor of the 101st Airborne Division typing school pulled the totally fumble-fingered and befuddled young PFC Poe aside and said, “Son, with those godawful clumsy fingers, you’re wasting your time here,” and sent me back to my unit as an inglorious washout.

            And that was in spite of the fact that young Poe possessed the hand-eye coordination to be considered the unofficial battalion artist.

            But he could not master two-handed QWERTY.

            To this day, ol’ Poe remains a two-fingered typist, a fairly fast one as my career legal assistant and skilled typist spouse will attest, but still, two fingers only.

            “Two-fingered” serves as fairly good descriptive of my computer and Internet skills as well, rendering me a bit of a handicapped competitor.

            • MarineDad61 says:

              Your English (spelling, grammar,
              vocabulary, and spell checking)
              is better than most here.
              Better than some with 2 left hands, or 10 thumbs.

              I am cellphone handicapped,
              and will surely sport a desktop PC
              and carry along the trip laptop (with camo case)
              to the grave.

  12. NHSparky says:

    I made a comment about this in the Book of Face and got a 30-day ban for “inciting violence.”

    Good thing I didn’t say what I REALLY thought.

    • Anonymous says:

      Leftbook likes the little commie bastard and his wife, of course.

    • MarineDad61 says:

      Wow, and you probably didn’t say anything that severe.
      Perhaps 30 days is due to past trips to FakeBook Jail?

      If it helps,
      on the Book of the Fake,
      in a popular group for fans of The Three Stooges…
      FakeBook handed a bunch of group members 24 hour FakeBook jail,
      and put the group on double secret probation,
      with 30 day admin post approval on all posts,
      all for posts with nothing more than
      verbatim Three Stooges script, punch lines,
      or photos of the more violent stuff
      (several from this scene).

  13. Carlton says:

    Old girl probably thinks to herself that she’ll at least be safe in jail because all “da sisters” will recognize that she is “down with the ’cause’ ”

    I can’t wait to read about her getting brutalized.

  14. Hack Stone says:

    That’s the trouble with funneling military secrets to the Chinese military, 30 minutes later, you want to commit espionage again.

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