WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI found a trash bag of shredded documents, thousands of dollars in cash, latex gloves and a “go-bag” when they searched the home of a Maryland couple accused of trying to sell information about nuclear-powered warships to a foreign country, an agent testified Wednesday.
Jonathan Toebbe, a Navy nuclear engineer, and his wife, Diana, were arrested this month on espionage charges. Prosecutors allege that Jonathan Toebbe tried to pass submarine secrets to someone he thought was a representative of a foreign government but who was actually an undercover agent. They accuse Diana Toebbe of serving as a lookout for her husband at several “dead drop” locations at which sensitive information was left behind.
The couple pleaded not guilty in federal court in West Virginia. They face life in prison if convicted.
The country Toebbe was looking to sell the information to has not been identified in court documents and was not disclosed in court Wednesday.
Peter Olinits, a Pittsburgh-based agent specializing in counterintelligence investigations, testified at a detention hearing about steps the couple took to avoid getting caught at dead-drop locations as Jonathan Toebbe dropped memory cards containing government secrets, concealed them in gum wrappers and a peanut butter sandwich.
To avoid suspicion, Olinits said, the Toebbes would dress as if tourists or hikers and meander around the site, and Diana Toebbe was spotting snapping photographs.
Edward MacMahon, a lawyer for Diana Toebbe, argued that since the FBI did not record any of the couple’s conversations, agents actually had no proof that his client had any knowledge of her husband’s activities or what precisely he was doing.
“Did it occur to you as part of your investigation that maybe Mr. Toebbe was telling her he was up to something other than espionage against the United States?” MacMahon asked.
“I think that’d be a difficult thing to sell, but maybe,” Olinits said.