An American nuclear engineer and his wife appeared in court today, days after they were arrested for trying to sell submarine secrets for $5 million, as speculation continues over which country was the target buyer.
Jonathan Toby and his wife, Diana Toby, appeared separately in federal court in West Virginia, wearing an orange prison uniform. A judge ordered them to hire public defenders, stating that they did not have enough money to put their own money to work.
Both are accused of conspiring to deliver top-secret technology in the country’s most powerful nuclear-powered cruise missile launch submarines to an unnamed foreign power.
The criminal complaint unsealed on Sunday does not indicate which country they sought to sell the information to, but rather that it may be an ally of the United States, revealing that the country notified the US Federal Bureau of Investigation of the Toby’s initiative last December.
Nor does it provide any motivation to the couple.
Jonathan Toby, 42, was a former Navy officer with experience in submarine nuclear propulsion.
After leaving the Navy, he worked as a civilian contractor assigned to a research laboratory in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania that designs and develops nuclear power for the Navy.
Meanwhile, Diane Toby, 45, was a teacher at a prestigious private school, Main School, in Annapolis, Maryland where the couple owned a home.
The complaint gave tantalizing details, such as the espionage account of the case, including dead drops, crypto payments, and signals from an embassy building in Washington.
After the initial bona fide payment, the FBI lured them via encrypted communications to hand over an SD card laden with classified information about submarine technology.
The card was placed in a peanut butter sandwich and left at a location in West Virginia about 160 kilometers from Annapolis.
The last dead drop, in July, involved hiding an SD card inside a sleeve containing adhesive and left in a plastic bag at a location in south-central Pennsylvania.
In a letter to “Buyers”, undercover FBI agents, Me Toebbe noted that he has been thinking about his actions for several years and is now happy to work with a “trusted professional partner”.
He also wrote that he divided all the data he collected into 51 “bundles” of information. He wanted $100,000 each, to be delivered in installments over an unspecified period of time.
On the third dip in August, Toby left more submarine data and a note saying that if he got into trouble, he hoped the foreign country would help “snatch” him and his family.
“We have passports and money for this,” Toby wrote.
He added his thanks to the Partnership.
“One day, when it’s safe, maybe two old friends will have the opportunity to stumble into a café, share a bottle of wine and laugh at the stories of their common exploits,” he wrote.
The couple were arrested Saturday and face the possibility of life in prison on both charges.
Experts have speculated on the identity of the state that alerted the FBI to the data presentation in December, nearly nine months after Toebbes mailed their offer to the country’s military intelligence.
One of their contacts indicated that English may not be the country’s native language, and others indicated that the country’s Navy is familiar with nuclear propulsion technology.
Besides the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and India operate nuclear-powered naval vessels.
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