Oct 17, 2021 08:54 UTC
  • US engineer, his wife, who tried to sell nuclear submarine secrets, could face life in prison

Charged with attempts to sell secret data related to American nuclear submarines to an unnamed foreign entity, a US engineer and his wife could face life in prison.

The hearing for Jonathan Toebbe, 42, and wife Diane, 45,  is set to take place next week, USA Today reported.

"By all accounts, the (shared) information was critical," said Philip Mudd, a former CIA official who also served as Deputy Director of the FBI's National Security Branch. "Unless there was an opportunity to see the information downloading to a thumb drive or something, I'm not sure you get such a jump (on the investigation)."

The two were actually in touch with an FBI undercover agent after the country they were trying to sell the data to notified the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) arrested the Toebbes in Jefferson County, West Virginia, last week.

Had that country not turned the information over, the solicitation could have avoided US detection, suggested David Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor in Florida.

"I don't know, maybe 50-50 they find out eventually," Weinstein said. "This was more an example of fiction becoming reality."

US Navy documents, an SD disc and a letter were initially sent to an unspecified foreign country in December 2020, which ended up in the hands of the FBI attaché in that country.

"Please forward this letter to your military intelligence agency. I believe this information will be of great value to your nation," the letter in the package allegedly said. "This is not a hoax."

He initially received $10,000 in cryptocurrency to drop some sensitive documents somewhere in West Virginia.

"Records show that JONATHAN TOEBBE is a government employee working as a nuclear engineer for the United States Navy and holds an active Top Secret Security Clearance through the United States Department of Defense and an active Q clearance from the United States Department of Energy," according to court documents.

He received $100,000 in total to sell restricted data related to American nuclear submarines in three drop-off, which could have potentially undermine the US national security.