On Tuesday, a nuclear engineer for the United States Navy and his wife pleaded guilty in connection with the investigation into their alleged involvement in a scheme to steal classified information regarding nuclear-powered warships. This comes a month after the court rejected their previous plea agreements, which had stipulated mandatory minimum sentences.
The federal government brought charges of conspiracy to communicate restricted information against Jonathan and two other people from Annapolis, Maryland: Diana Toebbe and Diana Toebbe.
U.S. District Judge Gina Groh denied the original pleas of the same couples last month, citing "strikingly deficient" sentence alternatives given the gravity of the accusations. After first pleading guilt, they quickly changed their minds, and in January, Groh set trial.
Jonathan Toebbe's attorneys had previously negotiated a sentencing range suggesting he might receive anywhere from 12 to 17 years in prison. On Tuesday, prosecutors claimed the sentence would be one of the harshest ever handed down for a violation of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954. Diana Toebbe was also hit with a three-year prison term demand from the prosecution.
An agreement to plead guilty was signed today in federal court. Prosecutors are asking Magistrate Judge Robert Trumble for a sentence for Diana Toebbe that is at the low end of the sentencing guidelines range. The maximum penalty for the couple is life in prison and a fine of $100,000.
Defendants can withdraw their guilty pleas if the judge rejects the latest deal.
Prosecutors said that Jonathan Toebbe, 43, misappropriated government property by providing information to a person he mistook for a foreign government official but who was actually an uninvolved FBI agent regarding the design components and performance characteristics of Virginia-class submarines.
Diana Toebbe, 46, a teacher at a prestigious Maryland school at the time of their apprehension in October of last year, is said to have acted as a lookout at predetermined "dead-drop" places where memory cards with the classified information were left.
Hidden memory cards can be found in places like gum wrappers and peanut butter sandwiches. The pair was taken into custody when the suspect left a memory chip on a vacant lot in Jefferson County, West Virginia.
According to earlier testimony, the information in question does not meet the criteria for top-secret or secret classification and instead belongs to the third category of secret.
The FBI has determined that Jonathan Toebbe's April 2020 shipment of Navy papers to an unnamed foreign government marked the beginning of the conspiracy. He claimed he planned to offer the government of that country classified operating documents, performance reports, and other sensitive information. According to the detectives, the package included a return address in Pittsburgh and directions for his bogus contact on how to establish a covert link with him.
In December of 2020, The FBI intercepted the shipment through its legal attache office in an undisclosed foreign country. A month-long undercover investigation ensued, during which an agent posing as a representative from the foreign government visited with Toebbe and paid him $100,000 in cryptocurrencies to learn more about the incident.
Neither he nor the court have revealed the target countries for the data sale.
In addition to the "significant amount" of cryptocurrencies, the prosecution claims that it has received classified material from Jonathan Toebbe's personal devices.
A judge testified earlier this year that FBI agents who searched the couple's house found a garbage bag full of shredded documents alongside hundreds of dollars in cash, valid passports for the children, and a "go-bag" with a USB flash drive and latex gloves.
At a hearing in December 2021, Diana Toebbe's counsel did not refute prosecution claims that she discussed fleeing to the United States to evade arrest during chats with her boyfriend in 2019. The defense said the pair left because they were unhappy with then-President Donald Trump.
The preceding is a summary of an article that originally appeared on News Sloth.