A US Navy nuclear engineer and his wife have each been sentenced to about two decades behind bars for conspiring to sell classified information related to the design of nuclear-powered warships to a foreign country in exchange for thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency.
The Justice Department announced Wednesday that Jonathan Toebbe, 44, of Annapolis, Maryland, was sentenced to more than 19 years. His wife, Diana Toebbe, 46, was sentenced to more than 21 years in prison.
The couple pleaded guilty in February to conspiracy and hoped to get a federal judge in West Virginia to sign off on proposed plea agreements for lesser sentences. Judge Gina Groh rejected the agreements stating that it was not in the best interest of the country to accept the deals in which Jonathan Toebbe could have been sentenced to between 12 and 18 years in prison, while his wife could have been sentenced to up to three years in prison.
The Toebbes pleaded guilty again in September as part of new agreements that exposed them to longer potential sentences, according to court documents.
The couple coordinated drop-offs of encrypted SD cards containing classified information about nuclear submarines, specifically Virginia-class vessels, for whom they believed were members of a foreign government in exchange for thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency, according to a criminal complaint.
Prosecutors said the couple went to great lengths to hide the SD cards at the dead-drop locations over the course of several months, tucking an SD card into a Saran-wrapped peanut butter sandwich in one instance, while others were hidden inside a packet of gum and a sealed Band-Aid wrapper.
“The Toebbes conspired to sell restricted defense information that would place the lives of our men and women in uniform and the security of the United States at risk,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.