Jonathan and Diana Toebbe: Spy couple who tried to sell nuclear secrets face 19 and 21 years in prison

Jonathan was jailed for 18 years, while his wife Diana received 21 years - a much harsher sentence than expected

Jonathan and Diana Toebbe: Spy couple who tried to sell nuclear secrets face 19 and 21 years in prison
Jonathan Toebee, 44, (L), and his wife Diana Toebee, 46 (R) are sentenced to long prison terms on November 9, 2022 (West Virginia Regional Jail and Correctional Facility)
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ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND: A US Navy nuclear engineer and his wife, a private school teacher, who were arrested for trying to sell secrets of American nuclear warships to Brazilian officials, were sentenced Wednesday, Nov 9, to lengthy prison terms. Jonathan Toebee, 44, and his wife Diana Toebee, 46, had pleaded guilty in February to conspiracy to sell sensitive information about the nuclear reactors that power the US submarine fleet.

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US District Judge Gina Groh rejected the couple's initial settlement offers in August. At that time, the prosecutors sought up to 17.5 years for Jonathan Toebbe and three years for Diana Toebbe. Now Jonathan Toebee has been sentenced to 19 years and three months in prison. His wife, Diana Toebee, who acted as a lookout when her husband turned over top-secret information about the Navy's nuclear propulsion system, received a stiffer sentence. The private school teacher received a sentence of 21 years and eight months. The couple had been busted after repeatedly selling information about the submarines to a person they believed to be a representative of a foreign government, but who was actually a covert agent of FBI.

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Jonathan Toebbe and his wife Diana (L) were apprehended in October 2021 following an FBI sting operation (@marcorandazza/Twitter)
Jonathan Toebbe and his wife Diana (L) were apprehended in October 2021 following an FBI sting operation (@marcorandazza/Twitter)

Jonathan and his wife Diana were apprehended on October 9, 2021, after he hid a small SD card carrying US secrets at a dead drop location in West Virginia. Court documents described a tantalizing, spy-novel-like plot in which they traveled hundreds of miles to secretly hand over information, took payments in cryptocurrency, and followed signals made from an embassy building in Washington revealed Daily Mail. The FBI was first alerted about the sting in December 2020 while federal prosecutors concealed the identity of the foreign power, a senior Brazilian official and others with knowledge of the investigation have confirmed Toebbe approached their government in April 2020.

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Although the Brazilian government was keen on developing its own military technology, officials didn't accept American secrets and instead contacted the FBI, reported New York Times. The Toebbes' scheme unraveled in no time as federal officials devised a sting operation. Nevertheless, it was nearly nine months after the Toebbes first mailed their offer to the country's military intelligence. Jonathan Toebbe was accused of depositing memory cards containing government secrets, concealing them in objects such as a chewing gum wrapper, a Band-Aid wrapper, and a peanut butter sandwich.

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In one message, Toebbe indicated that he had been considering his actions for several years and was happy to work with "a reliable professional partner." He also wrote that he had divided all the data he had collected into 51 packages of information, and sought $100,000 for each, reported the source. "The Toebbes betrayed the American people and put our national security at significant risk when they selfishly attempted to sell highly sensitive information related to nuclear-powered warships for their own financial benefit," Brice Miller, a special agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, said in a statement. 

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Jonathan Toebbe acknowledged during the plea hearing to conspire to pass classified information to a foreign government, causing "injury to the United States." Jonathan Toebbe, who as part of his job had a top-secret security clearance, agreed as part of the plea deal to help federal officials with locating all classified information in his possession, as well as the roughly $100,000 in cryptocurrency that was paid to him. Currently, only six countries operate nuclear-powered submarines i.e. China, France, India, Russia, the UK, and the US. Each of these underwater craft costs an estimated $3 billion to build. Reportedly, US and UK are set to provide Australia with the technology to deploy nuclear-powered submarines, as part of the first initiative under the new trilateral security partnership AUKUS.

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