Wife in nuclear sub espionage case enters guilty plea

Written by Nick Blenkey
Mug shots of couple in espionage case

Diana Toebbe and Jonathan Toebbe [Image: West Virginia Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority]

Diana Toebbe, 46, of Annapolis, Md., pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy to communicate Restricted Data related to the design of nuclear-powered warships. As we reported earlier, her husband, Jonathan Toebbe, 43, pleaded guilty to the same offense on Monday, Feb. 14.

Both Toebbes were arrested in Jefferson County, W.Va., by the FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) on Saturday, October 9, and charged in a criminal complaint alleging violations of the Atomic Energy Act.

At the time of his arrest, Jonathan Toebbe was an employee of the Department of the Navy who served as a nuclear engineer and was assigned to the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program.He held an active national security clearance through the Department of Defense, and worked with and had access to information concerning naval nuclear propulsion.

According to court documents, Jonathan Toebbe sent a package to a foreign government, listing a return address in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, containing a sample of Restricted Data and instructions for establishing a covert relationship to purchase additional Restricted Data. Jonathan Toebbe began corresponding via encrypted email with an individual whom he believed to be a representative of the foreign government. The individual was really an undercover FBI agent. Jonathan Toebbe continued this correspondence for several months, which led to an agreement to sell Restricted Data in exchange for thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency.


On June 8, 2021, the undercover agent sent $10,000 in cryptocurrency to Jonathan Toebbe as “good faith” payment. Shortly afterwards, on June 26, Dianna Toebbe acted as a lookout while Jonathan Toebbe serviced a dead drop by placing an SD card, which was concealed within half a peanut butter sandwich and contained military sensitive design elements relating to submarine nuclear reactors, at a pre-arranged location. After retrieving the SD card, the undercover agent sent Jonathan Toebbe a $20,000 cryptocurrency payment. In return, Jonathan Toebbe emailed the undercover agent a decryption key for the SD Card. A review of the SD card revealed that it contained Restricted Data related to submarine nuclear reactors. On Aug. 28, Jonathan Toebbe made another “dead drop” of an SD card in eastern Virginia, this time concealing the card in a chewing gum package. After making a payment to Jonathan Toebbe of $70,000 in cryptocurrency, the FBI received a decryption key for the card. It, too, contained Restricted Data related to submarine nuclear reactors.

The FBI arrested Diana Toebbe and her husband on October 9, after she acted as a lookout while Jonathan Toebbe placed yet another SD card at a pre-arranged “dead drop” at a second location in West Virginia.

Diana Toebbe pleaded guilty to count one of the indictment charging her with conspiracy to communicate Restricted Data which carries a maximum statutory penalty of up to life in prison, a fine up to $100,000, and term of supervised release not more than five years. Pursuant to her plea agreement, says the Department of Justice, Diana Toebbe will serve a sentence of not more than 36 months of imprisonment in federal prison.

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