In the US, a 42-year-old man and his 45-year-old wife have been arrested on suspicion of espionage. The man is an engineer in the United States Navy and would have sold secret information about an atomic submarine along with his wife. Only the buyer turned out not a representative of another country, but an undercover FBI agent.
Those arrested are Jonathan Toebbe and his wife Diana, the Justice Department reports in a press release on the remarkable case. The engineer is said to have contacted an unnamed country by mail in April 2020. That ultimately led to a months-long undercover operation, according to the ministry.
Toebbe had access to secret data on nuclear submarines and nuclear powered warships. In the spring of 2020, he sent a package of this information to the government of country X and made it clear that he could deliver more for a fee.
‘This is not hoax’
“I apologize for the poor translation into your language,” said in the letter with instructions. “Please forward this to your military intelligence agency. I think this information is of great importance to your nation. This isn‘t a hoax.”
The FBI got hold of the spy post, how exactly is unclear. An undercover agent then contacted Toebbe, supposedly as an official of country X. In exchange for thousands of dollars in crypto coins, he agreed to obtain more information. The contact went through encrypted emails.
On June 8, 2021, the undercover agent “in good faith” sent $10,000 as a deposit. Later that month, Jonathan and Diana travelled to a location in the state of West Virginia. The wife was on the lookout as her husband delivered a memory card — hidden in half a peanut butter sandwich — to a so-called dead drop. That’s a spy term for a hidden space to exchange data.
The FBI then paid $20,000 in crypto coins. Reading the data showed that secret information had indeed been provided. This includes the design and capabilities of the atomic submarines. This method was repeated several times over several months.
Last Saturday, the two suspects were arrested. It is expected that they will have to appear in West Virginia next Tuesday. As far as it is known, the couple has not responded to the allegations yet.