(Washington) A US Navy engineer and his wife were sentenced Wednesday to 19 and 21 years in prison respectively for trying to sell nuclear submarine secrets to a foreign power.
Jonathan Toebbe, 44, and his wife Diana, 46, were arrested in October 2021 and pleaded guilty a few months later in this incredible case.
The judge gave the wife a longer sentence because she had sought to minimize her role and took longer to accept responsibility.
They “conspired to sell classified information, which would have endangered the men and women who wear the uniform, as well as the security of the United States”, commented in a press release Matthew Olsen, who supervises the national security files at the Department of Justice.
Jonathan Toebbe had been working, according to his court file, since 2012 on the design of the Virginia-class submarine reactors, the latest generation of attack submersibles in the American fleet.
In April 2020, he had sent a package to a third country with initial documents and instructions for establishing contact. “I apologize for this bad translation in your language”, affirmed the engineer in his message while promising to deliver “information of great value”.
The judicial authorities never specified which country he had contacted, but according to the New York Timesit was Brazil.
The package had arrived in December 2020 at the attaché of the American federal police in this country.
The FBI had then established contact with the engineer by posing as a representative of this country who cooperated, going so far as to place a sign of recognition on his embassy in Washington to prove to Jonathan Toebbe that his interlocutor was not not an investigator.
Jonathan Toebbe had received between June and August payments in cryptocurrency for 100,000 dollars, in exchange for which he handed over confidential information from the US Navy.
This data was contained in encrypted SD cards, deposited by the couple in pre-agreed places and concealed in a peanut butter sandwich, a packet of chewing gum or a bandage wrapper.