The wife of a former navy engineer has pleaded guilty to helping him sell nuclear submarine secrets to what he believed to be a foreign government.
Diana Toebbe and Jonathan Toebbe initially pleaded not guilty after their arrest last year, the culmination of an alleged scheme in which he traded Virginia-class nuclear submarine secrets – hidden in memory cards swiped in a sandwich, band-aid and gum wrap – for thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency.
On Monday, Mr Toebbe pleaded guilty to conspiring to release restricted data.
As part of her plea deal in US District Court on Friday, which could result in a prison sentence of up to three years, Ms Toebbe admitted she ‘knowingly and willingly joined a conspiracy’ with her husband , including acting as a “lookout” as it performed “drops” of restricted information.
She said she first learned of her husband’s alleged plan last summer.
The Maryland couple have remained in federal custody since their arrest.
Ms Toebbe, a teacher, has repeatedly applied for bail, arguing she was unaware of her husband’s alleged plans. She also pleaded for her release to care for the couple’s two school-aged children.
Almost two years ago, Mr Toebbe – who had a top secret security clearance from a naval submarine program – allegedly sought to approach a foreign government with an offer to sell secrets on the nuclear propulsion systems of American submarines. Federal prosecutors did not release the name of the country.
A package postmarked April 1, 2020 contained a note to contact him by December 31, 2020, or “I will conclude that you are not interested and will approach other potential buyers.
Weeks before that deadline, the FBI reportedly intercepted the package, which contained operational manuals and other information – all marked “CONFIDENTIAL” – as well as instructions for contacting the sender, in what appeared to be an attempt to ‘establish a secret relationship, according to an affidavit.
The FBI then posed as foreign officials to exchange encrypted messages with the sender using codenames.
Over the course of several months, they negotiated “breakeven” slots to hand over memory cards with tons of data in exchange for US$100,000 in the Monero cryptocurrency, according to federal prosecutors. Top secret plans were allegedly stuffed into a peanut butter sandwich, a bandage and a packet of chewing gum.
The couple were arrested after a final fall on October 9, 2021 near a hiking trail in West Virginia.
As part of their pleas, the Toebbes agreed to help investigators find all restricted and classified data in their possession and recover the $100,000 in Monero sent to them as part of the arrangement.
A sentencing date has not been set.
The Independent Gt