Maryland couple plead guilty in selling undersea secrets case
The previous sentencing range agreed by Jonathan Toebbe’s lawyers called for a potential sentence of between around 12 and 17 years in prison. Prosecutors said on Tuesday that such a sentence would be one of the most significant in modern times under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954. Prosecutors also demanded three years for Diana Toebbe.
Under the latest plea deal reached on Tuesday before US Magistrate Robert Trumble, the couple each face a maximum sentence of life in prison and a $100,000 fine, although prosecutors are seeking a sentence for Diana Toebbe at the lower end of the guideline range.
If the court does not accept the final agreement, the defendants would again have the right to withdraw their guilty plea.
Prosecutors say Jonathan Toebbe, 43, abused his access to top-secret government information and repeatedly sold details of design elements and performance characteristics of Virginia-class submarines to someone. one he believed to be a representative of a foreign government but was actually an undercover FBI. agent.
Diana Toebbe, 46, who was teaching at a private school in Maryland at the time of the couple’s arrest last October, was accused of standing watch at several pre-arranged « dead-drop » locations where memory cards containing the secret information was left behind.
Memory cards were devices concealed in objects such as chewing gum wrappers and peanut butter sandwiches. The couple were arrested after placing a memory card in a dead end location in Jefferson County, West Virginia.
None of the information was classified top secret or secret, falling under a third category considered confidential, according to previous testimony.
The FBI said the program began in April 2020, when Jonathan Toebbe sent a package of Navy documents to a foreign government and wrote that he was interested in selling that country operating manuals, reports performance and other sensitive information. He included in the package, which had a return address in Pittsburgh, instructions to his supposed contact on how to establish a secret relationship with him, prosecutors said.
This package was obtained by the FBI in December 2020 through its legal attache office in the unspecified foreign country. This sparked a months-long sting operation in which an agent posing as a representative of a foreign country made contact with Toebbe, eventually paying $100,000 in cryptocurrency in exchange for the information Toebbe offered. .
The country to which he was seeking to sell the information was not identified in court documents and was not disclosed in court.
Prosecutors said the government recovered classified information Jonathan Toebbe had saved on electronic devices along with a « substantial amount » of the cryptocurrency.
During a search of the couple’s home, FBI agents found a trash bag containing shredded documents, thousands of dollars in cash, valid children’s passports and a ‘go-bag’ containing a USB drive and gloves latex, according to court testimony last year.
At a hearing in December 2021, lawyers for Diana Toebbe denied the prosecution’s claims citing 2019 messages the couple exchanged in which she considered fleeing the United States to avoid arrest. Instead, the defense said it was contempt for then-President Donald Trump that was behind the couple’s emigration plans.