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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of West Virginia

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Maryland Nuclear Engineer and his wife indicted on national security charges

MARTINSBURG, WEST VIRGINIA - Jonathan and Diana Toebbe, both of Annapolis, Maryland, were indicted today by a Grand Jury in Elkins, West Virginia, on national security charges, United States Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld, II announced.

Jonathan, 42, and Diana 45, are each charged with one count of “Conspiracy to Communicate Restricted Data” and two counts of “Communication of Restricted Data.” The charges come after a complaint was filed and the Toebbes were arrested on October 9, 2021.

For almost a year, Jonathan Toebbe, aided by his wife, Diana, sold information known as Restricted Data concerning the design of nuclear-powered warships to a person they believed was a representative of a foreign power.  In actuality, that person was an undercover FBI agent. The Toebbes had previously been charged in a criminal complaint alleging violations of the Atomic Energy Act.

Jonathan Toebbe is an employee of the Department of the Navy who served as a nuclear engineer and was assigned to the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, also known as Naval Reactors. He held an active national security clearance through the U.S. Department of Defense, giving him access to Restricted Data. 

Toebbe worked with and had access to information concerning naval nuclear propulsion including information related to military sensitive design elements, operating parameters, and performance characteristics of the reactors for nuclear powered warships.

The indictment alleges that on April 1, 2020, Jonathan Toebbe sent a package to a foreign government, listing a return address in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, containing a sample of Restricted Data and instructions for establishing a covert relationship to purchase additional Restricted Data. The indictment also alleges that, thereafter, Toebbe began corresponding via encrypted email with an individual whom he believed to be a representative of the foreign government. The individual was really an undercover FBI agent.  Jonathan Toebbe continued this correspondence for several months, which led to an agreement to sell Restricted Data in exchange for thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency. 

On June 8, 2021, the undercover agent sent $10,000 in cryptocurrency to Jonathan Toebbe as “good faith” payment.  Shortly afterwards, on June 26, 2021, Jonathan and Diana Toebbe traveled to a location in West Virginia.  There, with Diana Toebbe acting as a lookout, Jonathan Toebbe placed an SD card concealed within half a peanut butter sandwich at a pre-arranged “dead drop” location.  After retrieving the SD card, the undercover agent sent Jonathan Toebbe a $20,000 cryptocurrency payment.  In return, Jonathan Toebbe emailed the undercover agent a decryption key for the SD Card.  A review of the SD card revealed that it contained Restricted Data related to submarine nuclear reactors.  On August 28, 2021, Jonathan Toebbe made another “dead drop” of an SD card in eastern Virginia, this time concealing the card in a chewing gum package.  After making a payment to Toebbe of $70,000 in cryptocurrency, the FBI received a decryption key for the card.  It, too, contained Restricted Data related to submarine nuclear reactors.  The FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) arrested Jonathan and Diana Toebbe on October 9, after he placed yet another SD card at a pre-arranged “dead drop” at a second location in West Virginia.

Trial Attorneys Matthew J. McKenzie and S. Derek Shugert, Counterintelligence and Export Control Section, U.S. Department of Justice, National Security Division, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jarod J. Douglas and Lara Omps-Botteicher, Northern District of West Virginia, and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Lieber Smolar, Western District of Pennsylvania, are prosecuting the case on behalf of the government. The FBI and the NCIS investigated.

An indictment is merely an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Topic(s): 
National Security
Updated October 19, 2021