Prosecutors seek detention in Navy submarine espionage case


WASHINGTON – Federal prosecutors on Monday demanded that a Navy engineer remain locked up as they pursue charges he attempted to sell underwater secrets to a foreign country.

Jonathan Toebbe’s detention note was filed Tuesday ahead of an expected appearance in federal court in West Virginia. The Justice Department filed an identical petition for Toebbe’s wife, Diana, who was also arrested on Saturday.

Jonathan Toebbe is accused of passing design information on sophisticated Virginia-class submarines to someone he believed to represent a foreign government but who was in fact an undercover FBI agent. The identity of the country has not been revealed in court documents.

According to the documents, Toebbe contacted the foreign country in April 2020 to offer information on the submarines and to provide instructions on how to maintain a stealthy dialogue. But the package he sent was obtained eight months later by the FBI, who contacted Toebbe through an undercover agent who agreed to pay tens of thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency in exchange of government secrets.

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Toebbe left memory cards with sensitive documents in pre-set locations, concealing them in one case in a peanut butter sandwich and sometimes in chewing gum wrap and bandage wrap, according to the FBI. Diana Toebbe accompanied him on several occasions, most notably as a lookout during one of those dead-end operations in Jefferson County, West Virginia, according to court documents.

It was not immediately clear whether either of the Toebbes had a lawyer.

In the detention note, prosecutors checked boxes indicating they believed the Toebbes posed a risk of flight and obstruction of justice. They also ticked boxes showing that the prosecution, under the Atomic Energy Act, involves an “offense for which the maximum penalty is life imprisonment or death.”


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