Ex-Navy Engineer Pleads Guilty to Trying to Sell State Secrets

A former U.S. Navy engineer has pleaded guilty to attempting to sell secrets about nuclear submarines to an undisclosed foreign power.

Jonathan Toebbe has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to communicate restricted data and communication of restricted data. He was arrested along with his wife Diana in October 2021, although she has pleaded not guilty to her charges, according to Reuters.

Toebbe possessed a top-secret security clearance that allowed him access to information "concerning naval nuclear propulsion including information related to military sensitive design elements, operating parameters, and performance characteristics of the reactors for nuclear powered warships," according to the Department of Justice.

"From on or about April 1, 2020, through October 9, 202, in Jefferson County, West Virginia, and elsewhere, I conspired with Diana Toebbe to transmit restricted data to a foreign nation in exchange for payment with the intent to injure the United States," wrote Toebbe in his plea, the Associated Press reported.

The couple was busted by an undercover FBI agent posing as a foreign official, the DOJ added. It is unknown what country the agent pretended to represent, as it has not been disclosed in official court documents.

"I believe this information will be of great value to your nation," wrote Toebbe in one of his communications with the agent, according to the criminal complaint. "This is not a hoax."

According to CBS News, the former engineer was reportedly suspicious of the contact, declining to meet in person and requesting that they place a sign at that country's embassy property in Washington, D.C., in order to confirm their identity. The agent reportedly told Toebbe that the sign would be displayed over Memorial Day weekend.

"The signal will be inside our main building from Saturday morning until Sunday evening Memorial Day weekend," the FBI wrote in its communications, CBS added. Five months and several "dead drops" of information after this message was sent, Toebbe was arrested.

While her husband has pleaded guilty to all charges, Diana has taken a different approach. Instead, she has pleaded not guilty to the same charges, the AP reported. There is no indication that a plea hearing has been scheduled for Diana.

"Mrs. Toebbe is now an unemployed school teacher and a mother of two teenage children, with no means of support," her attorney said in January, according to CBS News. "She has professed her innocence as to the serious charges she faces, which charges carry no presumption in favor of detention, but remains incarcerated pretrial despite overwhelming evidence that she is neither a danger to the community or a flight risk."

Update on 02/14/2022 at 5:21 p.m. EST: This story has been updated with more background information on the case.

USS Connecticut 2016
A former Navy engineer has pleaded guilty for attempting to sell secrets about submarines to an undercover FBI agent. Above, the Seawolf-class fast-attack submarine USS Connecticut (SSN 22) departs Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for sea trials following a maintenance availability on December 15, 2016, in Washington state. Thiep Van Nguyen II/U.S. Navy via AP