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Navy engineer accused of attempting to convey information in peanut butter sandwich


A U.S. Navy engineer who allegedly hid confidential information about nuclear-powered submarines in a peanut butter sandwich faces espionage charges, federal court documents unsealed on Sunday.

Jonathan Toebbe, 42, was arrested in West Virginia on Saturday on suspicion of conspiracy to release restricted data and other crimes, federal prosecutors for the state’s northern district said in a statement.

His wife, Diana Toebbe, 45, a teacher from Maryland, was also arrested on allegations that she helped him.

According to a criminal complaint, Toebbe – who began working with the Navy in 2012 – allegedly sent a package containing military documents and other files to a military intelligence agency in the country he was trying to establish a relationship with.

The country is not identified in the complaint, and the package ended up with an FBI attache there, according to the complaint.

Beginning in February, an undercover FBI agent began emailing Toebbe – who allegedly used the nickname “Alice” – via an encrypted messaging service. Over the next few months, Toebbe reportedly provided the agent with documents containing limited details about the Virginia-class submarines, a nuclear-powered fast attack warship.

On June 26, FBI agents watched Toebbe leave an SD card that had been wrapped in plastic and placed in a peanut butter sandwich at a dead drop location in West Virginia, according to the complaint. At another depot, he allegedly used bandage wrap and a plastic bag to hide an SD card.

The documents accuse Diana Toebbe of helping to conduct surveillance to determine if they were being followed.

On August 28, the FBI paid Jonathan Toebbe $ 100,000 in Monero, a cryptocurrency, according to the documents. The next day, he reportedly emailed the person he believed to be a foreign agent thanking them for their partnership.

“Someday, when he’s sure, maybe two old friends will have the chance to pass each other in a cafe, share a bottle of wine and laugh at the stories of their common exploits,” he reportedly wrote, adding: “I will always remember your bravery in the service of your country and your commitment to help me.”

It was not immediately clear whether Jonathan or Diana Toebbe had lawyers. The Federal Court records did not list them.

The couple are scheduled to appear in federal court in Martinsburg, West Virginia on Tuesday.




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