Government Engineer Arrested on Espionage Charges Was James Bond Fan

Jonathan Toebbe, the government nuclear engineer who was arrested and charged with an alleged espionage plot to sell submarine secrets, had an interest in science fiction books, the “Casino Royale” James Bond movie, and Spycraft. His wife and accomplice, Diana, a school teacher, liked going to Renaissance festivals and women’s marches. 

Toebbe, 42, had worked for the U.S. government since 2012, specializing in naval nuclear propulsion. Before that, he was a physics teacher.

Toebbe and his wife were arrested in West Virginia on Saturday. FBI agents raided the couple’s home in Annapolis, Maryland, the same day. They were charged with selling nuclear submarine secrets to an unnamed foreign government in exchange for thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency.

Toebbe and his lookout wife allegedly sent thousands of government documents about nuclear submarine propulsion systems to a supposed foreign operative who was really an undercover FBI agent gathering evidence against them.

Several times this year the Toebbes concealed small data cards in everyday items like a Band-Aid wrapper, a chewing gum package, and half a peanut butter sandwich to be fetched by the fake foreign spy service handler, the Washington Post reported.

Toebbe placed memory cards containing sensitive information at prearranged “dead drop” sites, after agreeing to deals worth a combined $100,000 in cryptocurrency following exchanges, via encrypted email, with a fake representative, according to the Department of Justice. 

Toebbe wrote he was interested in selling information on the nuclear propulsion system of Virginia-class nuclear submarines, the DOJ said. That technology has recently been the focus of a deal between the U.S., U.K., and Australia. 

For several months, the affidavit said, Toebbe corresponded via encrypted email and arranged three “drops.”

In the first, Toebbe placed a memory card inside a peanut butter sandwich at a prearranged site for $10,000 in cryptocurrency.

After receiving a second payment of $10,000, Toebbe is alleged to have sent a decryption key for the SD card, containing secret data on submarine nuclear reactors.

There was a third transaction and payment for $70,000.

The Toebbes are charged with violating the Atomic Energy Act, which makes it a crime to share “restricted data” and is a separate and in some ways easier-to-prove charge than sharing classified information, the Washington Post reported, and they could face life in prison.

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