US couple arrested for selling nuclear warship data

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A couple have been arrested in the U.S. state of West Virginia for allegedly selling information about nuclear warships to what they believed to be a foreign state, the Department of Justice said on Sunday.

Jonathan Toebbe, 42, who worked as a nuclear engineer for the US Navy, and his wife Diana, 45, were arrested by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents on Saturday and charged with breaking atomic energy law , announced the Ministry of Justice.

For about a year, the couple “sold information known as Restricted Data regarding the design of nuclear-powered warships to someone they believed to be a representative of a foreign power,” the department said. , adding that the recipient of the information was an undercover FBI. agent.

Mr Toebbe, who was based in Annapolis, Md. And had access to restricted data on nuclear-powered warships through his work, worked with his wife to exchange data on submarine nuclear reactors for around 100 $ 000 in cryptocurrency, according to the affidavit of complaint.

When Mr. Toebbe first tried to establish contact with the foreign government – which was not identified in the affidavit – he wrote: “I apologize for the poor translation into your language. Please forward this letter to your military intelligence agency, ”the document reads.

“I believe this information will be of great value to your nation. This is not a hoax. “

The affidavit states that Mr. Toebbe sent a package to the foreign government in April 2020 “containing a restricted data sample and instructions to establish a secret relationship.”

The FBI intercepted the package and the undercover agent posed as a foreign government official to establish a relationship with the couple.

The agent sent Mr. Toebbe, who used the pseudonym “Alice”, an email offering him a gift as a thank you for the data. But Mr. Toebbe responded cautiously, asking instead to set up a dead drop location and get paid in cryptocurrency.

Over the following months, the couple transferred several encrypted SD (digital secure) data cards to the agent. In the first dead fall, “the SD card was wrapped in plastic and placed between two slices of bread on a half peanut butter sandwich,” the agent said in the complaint.

Other SD cards were hidden in a bubble gum wrap and sealed Band-Aid wrapper, with the Band-Aid still inside.

The couple were arrested on Saturday after leaving another SD card at a dead drop site.

US Attorney General Merrick Garland praised the agencies involved for “foiling the plot” and “for taking that first step to bring the perpetrators to justice.”

The couple were scheduled to appear in federal court in West Virginia on Tuesday.

US nuclear-powered submarines were at the center of a major diplomatic crisis between Paris and Washington last month, when Australia canceled a major contract to purchase submarines from France.

Australia and Britain unveiled a new defense contract for these submarines in September, negotiated secretly for several months.

To join the pact, Australia abandoned a multi-million dollar contract with France, sparking an international feud that saw Paris recall its ambassador to Canberra.

Update: October 11, 2021, 4:17 a.m.


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