courtesy Wikimedia Commons The USS Nautilus, picture above, was the first nuclear-powered submarine, as well as the first submarine to transit the Antarctic submerged.

Maryland couple trying to sell nuclear secrets fails miserably

A Maryland couple unknowingly sold nuclear secrets to an undercover FBI agent posing as a foreign power.

Oftentimes we see spies in movies taping flash drives underneath park benches or leaving burner phones in paper bags to make handoffs. Jonathan and Diana Toebbe took this to a whole other level as they began selling government documents about nuclear submarines to what they believed was a foreign country.

The couple had lived an innocent suburban life in Annapolis, Maryland with their two children before their poor attempt at spycraft. Jonathan Toebbe had access to restricted information through his nuclear engineering position in the Navy and possessed national security clearance via the Department of Defense. Diana Toebbe, a humanities teacher at Key School in Annapolis conspired with her husband to sell restricted data on nuclear reactors and other sensitive information about American submarines.

In April 2020, the Toebbes contacted a foreign country and sent a sample of the restricted information they could provide in hopes of entering a deal where they exchanged government secrets for cryptocurrency. The foreign country, however, immediately contacted the U.S. government with knowledge that someone was attempting to sell said secrets. The foreign government turned over the restricted documents and helped to cultivate a trusting relationship between the FBI operative and the Toebbes. The foreign government is not listed in the court documents, although it is reasonable to believe they are a U.S. ally considering their full cooperation with our government to root out the criminals.

For over a year, the seemingly innocuous couple allegedly sent thousands of restricted government documents to their FBI handler, receiving large sums of cryptocurrency in return. The reported amount totalled to roughly $100,000. They hid small data cards in laughable objects like half a peanut butter sandwich, a Band-Aid wrapper and a pack of gum, completely oblivious to the fact their scheme had been foiled from the start. The FBI continued to build their case against the third-rate spies until Oct. 9 as the Toebbes were traveling to the predetermined drop off point in West Virginia. The FBI arrested them that morning.

The Toebbes are charged with violating the Atomic Energy Act and committing espionage. The Atomic Energy Act prohibits the disclosure of information associated with atomic and nuclear weapons. If the couple is found guilty, they could be sentenced to life in prison.

Neither James Bond reject was granted bail or release on bond as they are considered flight risks. The FBI reported finding a go-bag packed for travel in their home with passports, cash and a cryptocurrency wallet. It was obvious they had planned on escaping with their children if things went awry. Perhaps if this had been a spy movie, they would have succeeded. The lame effort put forth by the Toebbes did not allow for such success and led to their downfall instead.
The motive for this pathetic espionage remains unclear. The couple hadn’t been severely wronged by the U.S. and seemed to be living a good, ordinary life. Whether they believed they could outsmart the government, get rich or simply wanted to spice up their perfectly ordinary lives, the Toebbes’ efforts destroyed their family. They will now have the privilege of watching their young children grow up from behind bars, as it is almost inevitable that both parents will be doing time.

Post Author: Shelby Hiens