Posted by on October 12, 2021 2:01 pm
Categories: News Washington Examiner

Husband and wife would-be nuclear spy pair in US Marshals custody after first court appearance

A Homeland Security police officers enter the U.S. District Courthouse were Jonathan and Diana Toebbe have their hearing in Martinsburg, W.Va., on Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021. Jonathan Toebbe, a Navy nuclear engineer, has been charged with trying to pass information about the design of American nuclear-powered submarines to someone he thought was a representative of a foreign government but who turned out to be an undercover FBI agent. His wife also was arrested. Jose Luis Magana/AP

Husband and wife would-be nuclear spy pair in US Marshals custody after first court appearance

Jerry Dunleavy October 12, 01:24 PMOctober 12, 01:34 PM

A husband-and-wife pair of alleged would-be spies who attempted to sell restricted data on the design of nuclear-powered warships will receive court-appointed defense attorneys and have been sent to jail in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service following their first court appearance on Tuesday.

Jonathan Toebbe, a nuclear engineer at the Department of the Navy’s Nuclear Propulsion Program, and his wife, Diana, have been accused of violating the Atomic Energy Act and have been hit with espionage-related charges following their alleged efforts to sell nuclear secrets to a yet-unnamed foreign government in exchange for tens of thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency in a plot that was intercepted by the FBI. The two appeared separately before a magistrate court in West Virginia on Tuesday, clad in short-sleeved orange jumpsuits and wearing masks.

Magistrate Judge Robert Trumble separately read each of their defendants their rights, including the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney, and they each said they understood in back-to-back in-person appearances that streamed via Zoom on Tuesday morning. The judge then quickly remanded them to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service. The two face charges that could land them with life in prison, and the Justice Department is seeking to detain the two pending trial, with the magistrate setting a detention hearing for Friday and a preliminary examination hearing for next week.


The judge pressed Jonathan Toebbe on whether the financial affidavit he had submitted was accurate, and he replied that it was “to the best of my knowledge, yes.” Toebbe’s wife later said it was accurate “to the best of my knowledge, which is very limited.” Trumble determined that each of them “qualify for court-appointed counsel.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jarod Douglas told the magistrate judge that the DOJ is seeking to keep the two behind bars ahead of the trial, and the prosecutors argued in a court filing that the Toebbes are eligible for pretrial detention because they are charged with “an offense for which the maximum sentence is life imprisonment or death” and due to concerns about a “serious risk defendant will flee” and a “serious risk obstruction of justice.”

Jonathan Toebbe worked for the Navy’s “Nuclear Reactors” program, and prosecutors say he held an active national security clearance through the Department of Defense, which gave him access to the restricted nuclear data in question. The Justice Department said he “worked with and had 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.”


Toebbe’s wife, a Maryland teacher, helped him in his scheme to trade nuclear secrets for cryptocurrency. Prosecutors laid out how the husband communicated with someone he thought was a representative of a foreign government but was really an undercover FBI agent, as well as how the husband and wife attempted to pass along the secrets, including a dead drop in West Virginia in June involving placing an SD card containing secret information hidden inside half of a peanut butter sandwich at a pre-arranged “dead drop” location.

© 2021 Washington Examiner

Originally appeared at Washington Examiner

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