Nuclear Security & Deterrence Monitor Vol. 25 No. 40
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Nuclear Security & Deterrence Monitor
Article 6 of 9
October 15, 2021

Navy Employee Busted in Spy Sting for Trying to Sell Virginia-class Reactor Secrets

By Dan Leone

A government employee and his wife were arrested last week for attempting this summer to sell classified information about the Virginia-class attack submarine’s nuclear reactor to a foreign government, according to an unsealed criminal complaint dated Oct. 8.

Jonathan Toebbe and his wife, Diana Toebbe, were in federal custody by Saturday, according to a filing in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia. The FBI alleged the two Annapolis, Md., residents violated the Atomic Energy Act by passing thousands of pages of classified information to an undercover agent — posing as a representative of an unidentified foreign government — through a series of dead drops.

Dianne Toebbe was scheduled to continue her detention hearing on Wednesday. Jonathan Toebbe had not been scheduled for a hearing at deadline for Nuclear Security & Deterrence Monitor.

Jonathan Toebbe, who held a top secret clearance from the Navy and a Q clearance form the Department of Energy, worked for the federal government since 2012, according to the complaint. In that time, the FBI said, he hoarded classified documents and drawings, including “technical details, operations manuals, and performance reports” while assigned to the Navy’s Reactor Engineering Division and to the Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania: a facility outside of Pittsburgh managed by Fluor Marine Propulsion for the National Security Administration under a Naval Nuclear Laboratory contract slated to run at least through Sept. 30, 2023.

Jonathan Toebbe offered to sell technical data about the Virginia-class reactor to the unidentified foreign government in April 2020, according to the FBI’s complaint. The government of that country, called COUNTRY1 in the complaint, turned over Toebbe’s unsolicited offer, sent through “a mail carrier from the U.S.,” to the FBI in December.

Subsequently, the FBI’s undercover agent pretended to be an agent of COUNTRY1 and set up a series of dead drops with Toebbe, who wanted to be paid for the documents he allegedly stole with a cryptocurrency called Monero. The FBI transferred about $100,000 worth of Monero to Toebbe in the course of its operation, which wrapped up on Saturday, according to the complaint.