A Navy nuclear engineer pleaded guilty Monday to trying to pass information about American nuclear-powered warships to a foreign country.
Jonathan Toebbe, 43, pleaded guilty in federal court in Martinsburg, West Virginia, to a single count of conspiracy to communicate restricted data. The sentencing range agreed to by lawyers calls for a potential punishment between roughly 12 years and 17 years in prison.
Toebbe and his wife, Diana, were arrested last October after prosecutors said he had repeatedly sold information about the submarines to someone he thought was a representative of a foreign government but who was actually an undercover FBI agent.
Toebbe acknowledged during the plea hearing to conspiring to pass classified information to a foreign government, causing “injury to the United States.”
Diana Toebbe was accused of serving as a lookout at several prearranged “dead-drop” locations at which her husband deposited memory cards containing government secrets, concealing them in objects such as a chewing gum wrapper, a Band-Aid wrapper and a peanut butter sandwich. She has pleaded not guilty and the case against her remains pending.
The country to which Jonathan Toebbe was looking to sell the information has not been identified in court documents and was not disclosed in court during the plea hearing Monday.
Toebbe, who as part of his job had a top-secret security clearance, agreed as part of the plea deal to help federal officials with locating all classified information in his possession, as well as the roughly $100,000 in cryptocurrency that was paid to him.
FBI agents who searched the couple’s Annapolis, Maryland, home found a trash bag of shredded documents, thousands of dollars in cash, valid children’s passports and a “go-bag” containing a USB flash drive and latex gloves.