U.S. naval engineer charged with submarine espionage to remain in jail

WASHINGTON, Oct 20 (Reuters) – A U.S. judge on Wednesday ordered the jailing of a former U.S. Navy engineer while he awaits trial on charges he attempted to sell secrets about nuclear submarines to a foreign power.

Appearing before the judge in federal court in Martinsburg, West Virginia, Jonathan Toebbe did not contest a request by the U.S. Justice Department for his pretrial detention.

Toebbe’s wife, Diana, who was charged with helping her husband, is asking for pretrial release. A court hearing on that request is underway, and the judge has not yet ruled on it.

The Toebbes were arrested on Oct. 9 in Jefferson County, West Virginia, following a yearlong sting operation by undercover FBI agents, the Justice Department said in a statement. They have been in federal custody since their arrest.

They have not yet been asked to enter a plea to the charges.

Nicholas Compton, a lawyer for Toebbe, declined to comment.

Toebbe, 42, a nuclear engineer with top-secret security clearance, is accused of sending Navy documents to an unnamed foreign entity in 2020, along with instructions on how to obtain additional information.

The Justice Department did not name the country involved.

Toebbe, with the aid of his 45-year-old wife, allegedly sold secrets to an undercover FBI agent posing as a foreign official over the course of several months, the Justice Department said.

At one point, Toebbe hid a digital memory card containing documents about submarine nuclear reactors in half a peanut butter sandwich at a “dead drop” location in West Virginia while his wife acted as lookout, the Justice Department said.

The memory card contained “militarily sensitive design elements, operating parameters and performance characteristics of Virginia-class submarine reactors,” according to a federal court affidavit.

Toebbe received separate cryptocurrency payments totaling $100,000, according to the Justice Department.

Reporting by Jan Wolfe; Editing by Karishma Singh and Steve Orlofsky

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

source: reuters.com