DENVER — A Maryland nuclear engineer and his wife were arrested Saturday on suspicion of trying to sell secret information about the design of nuclear-powered warships used to teach at a private school in Denver.
Jonathan Toebbe, 42, and Diana Toebbe, 45, both of Annapolis, were arrested in West Virginia by the FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS). They are facing a charge of violations of the Atomic Energy Act.
For a year, they sold information to a person they believed was a representative of a foreign power who was actually an FBI agent, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Jonathan Toebbe was an employee of the Department of the Navy and served as a nuclear engineer assigned to the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, the justice department said in a news release.
Before he went to work for the Navy, he was a science teacher at Kent Denver School. He taught at the high school level there between 2005 and 2008 and left in good standing, according to a Kent Denver spokesperson.
Jonathan Toebbe also earned a Master of Science in Nuclear Engineering from Colorado School of Mines after studying there from 2008 to 2012, a school spokesperson confirmed.
Diana Toebbe also taught high school science at Kent Denver School from 2005 to 2012 and left in good standing, the spokesperson said.
According to the affidavit in the case, on April 1, 2020, Jonathan Toebbe sent a package to a foreign government containing a sample of secret information and instructions for establishing a covert relationship, the justice department says.
After that, Toebbe spoke via encrypted email with a person he believed to be a representative of that foreign government. The person was really an undercover FBI agent. Toebbe continued to talk with the person for months and agreed to sell the information in exchange for thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency, the news release says.
On June 8, the FBI agent sent $10,000 in cryptocurrency to Toebbe as a "good faith" payment, the release says.
On June 26, Jonathan and Diane Toebbe went to West Virginia. Diana Toebbe acted as a lookout while her husband placed an SD card concealed in a peanut butter sandwich at a "dead drop" location, the Justice Department says.
After the undercover FBI agent retrieved the SD card, the agent sent $20,000 in cryptocurrency to Jonathan Toebbe, who then gave the agent a decryption key. The SD card contained secret information on submarine nuclear reactors, the Justice Department says.
On Aug. 28, Jonathan Toebbe did another "dead drop" of an SD card in Virginia in a chewing gum package and received $70,000 in cryptocurrency, the release says.
The FBI arrested the couple on Saturday, after Jonathan Toebbe did another "dead drop" at a location in West Virginia, the Justice Department says.
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