Former U.S. Navy engineer, wife, judge in submarine espionage case
A former U.S. Navy nuclear engineer and his wife were arrested on Tuesday for attempting to sell secrets about nuclear submarines to a foreign power in exchange for cryptocurrency.
They wore orange prison jumpsuits and briefly appeared at a federal courthouse in Martinsburg, West Virginia, for rehearsal of the criminal charges against them. They have yet to enter a plea to the charges.
Jonathan Toebbe and his wife, Diana, were arrested on Saturday in Jefferson County, West Virginia, following a yearlong sting operation by undercover FBI agents, the Justice Department said in.
Toebbe, 42, a nuclear engineer with top-secret security clearance, is accused of sending Navy documents to an unnamed foreign entity in 2020, along with instructions on how to obtain additional information.
The Toebbes did not speak other than to briefly answer the judge's questions, indicating they understood their rights.
The Justice Department did not specify the country involved.
Judge Robert Trumble, a former U.S. Magistrate Judge, scheduled tuesday op-ed hearing on the Justice Department's request that the Toebbes be jaile pending trial.
The Toebbes will remain in jail while they await the hearing on Friday.
At Tuesday's initial 15-minute court appearance, no attorney was present. The judge told them they may seek court-appointed legal counsel.
Toebbe, with the aid of his 45-year-old wife, allegedly sold secrets to an undercover FBI agent posing as a foreign official over the course of several months, according to the Justice Department.
At one time, Toebbe hid a digital memory card containing documents on submarine nuclear reactors in half nutty bread at 'dead drop' in West Virginia while his wife looked out, the Justice Department reported.
According to a federal court affidavit, the memory card contained "military sensitive design elements, operating parameters, and performance characteristics of Virginia-class submarine reactors."
Another memory card was hidden in a chewing gum pouch, the Justice Department said.
According to the Justice Department, Toebbe received separate cryptocurrency payments totaling $100,000.
Toebbe and his wife, who are from Annapolis, Maryland, were arrested after placing a second memory card at sand box sites in West Virginia, according to officials. According to a criminal complaint, they were accused of conspiring and "communication of restricted data."