A nuclear engineer and his wife were arrested in West Virginia for spying and selling restricted data.
The two have been selling classified information about the design of the nuclear-powered warship to someone they believe represents a foreign country for almost a year. The contact, however, was an undercover FBI agent sending payments for the data in cryptocurrency.
Jonathan and Diana Toebbe were arrested by the FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) on Saturday October 9th. You will appear in federal court on Tuesday, October 12th.
“The lawsuit alleges a conspiracy to transfer information related to the construction of our nuclear submarine to a foreign country.”
Jonathan Toebbe was Nuclear Engineer Designate for the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program and organized an active national security review by the US Department of Defense.
In April 2020, the FBI became suspicious of Toebbe after discovering that he had sent a package containing sample data and instructions on how to establish confidential communications and obtain additional information.
In June of this year, a secret agent sent Toebbe $ 10,000 in an unknown cryptocurrency as a “goodwill” payment after receiving some sample data. The couple used a “dead drop” to hide an SD card with additional information in a peanut butter sandwich half, for which the agent paid an additional $ 20,000 in crypto for the decryption keys.
The second drop prompted the FBI to pay Toebbe an additional $ 70,000 in crypto to get more data on U.S. nuclear submarines. The FBI arrested the couple after the third was arrested.
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The incident is not the first time that US federal agencies have used cryptocurrencies as part of an investigation into criminal activity.
In August, the State Department began offering cryptocurrency compensation through its Justice Rewards website for information leading to the arrest of foreign terrorist suspects.