A Navy nuclear engineer pleaded guilty this week to charges that he tried to smuggle submarine secrets in a peanut butter sandwich and sell them to a foreign government.
Jonathan Toebee, 43, was arrested in West Virginia last fall along with his wife Diana, who is also accused in participating in the scheme.
In a West Virginia court, Toebbe pleaded guilty to a count of conspiracy to communicate restricted data, according to the Associated Press. As part of that plea deal, Toebbe faces anywhere from 12 to 17 years in prison, short of the death penalty that some speculated about late last year.
Toebbe also agreed to assist federal officials in the recovery of all classified information to which he had access, and acknowledged that he was trying to “cause injury to the United States.”
Diana Toebbe has insisted she is not guilty, and her case is pending.
The couple was arrested in October for trying to sell critical information about U.S. submarines to someone he thought represented a foreign government but was an undercover FBI agent. The name of the country he thought he was dealing with has yet to be named.
Toebbe first sent a sample of restricted data to an undercover FBI agent in April 2020, and at the time told the agent he was hoping to establish a “covert relationship.” The FBI agent, acting as a foreign government representative, promised him “thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency.”
After giving the Toebbes a $10,000 down payment, the agent met the couple in West Virginia in 2021 to collect data hidden in a peanut butter sandwich. In a second meeting in 2021, the data was hidden inside a chewing gum package.
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