The Justice Department announced over the weekend that a Maryland man and his wife were arrested by the FBI and charged with allegedly sharing “restricted” design info regarding nuclear-powered U.S. warships, the Washington Examiner reports.
As a nuclear engineer with the Department of the Navy, Jonathan Toebbe, 42, passed secret nuclear-related info to his wife, who was selling it to who she believed to be a representative from a foreign nation. As it would turn out, her buyer was actually an undercover agent for the FBI.
Toebbe was the mastermind behind the setup, establishing methods for not only delivery of the secret information, but also the process of using cryptocurrency as payments.
The report reads like a spy novel, detailing how Toebbe and his wife, after receiving a $10,000 “good faith” payment for the sensitive data, traveled to West Virginia and established a “dead drop,” using a peanut butter sandwich to conceal an SD card that contained the nuclear warship data.
The process was repeated by Toebbe and his wife in August and September, each time receiving the payment and concealing the memory card in the sandwich, which was picked up by the undercover FBI agent.
However, it was their third attempt that landed them in handcuffs, as FBI agents awaiting the couple’s arrival to the dead drop location and arrested them.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland released a statement on the concerning development, which made clear that the DOJ, federal law enforcement, and the U.S. military are taking the matter deadly seriously.
“The work of the FBI, Department of Justice prosecutors, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Department of Energy was critical in thwarting the plot charged in the complaint and taking this first step in bringing the perpetrators to justice,” the statement read.
As of this writing, the couple faces charges of violating the Atomic Energy Act, and are set to appear in federal court this week to answer for their alleged crimes.