The Navy Submarine Spy Case: Postage, Piracy, and Peanut Butter

Lillian Eschweiler

Last week on Oct. 9, Maryland couple Jonathan and Diana Toebbe were arrested for suspicion of espionage, the criminal complaint filed alleging violation of the Atomic Energy Act. 

  Mr. Toebbe is a former nuclear engineer for the U.S. Navy, who is currently being charged for sending sensitive documents to a foreign power in exchange for cryptocurrency, his wife Diana was also allegedly involved, in correspondence she was mentioned as going to serve as the lookout at drop-off locations.  

  In 2020, A package containing restricted information and information on how to purchase more was sent out to a foreign country, with a return address to Pittsburg, Pa., Mr. Toebbe had also allegedly participated in communications with undercover FBI agents whom he had believed were officials of a foreign country using an encrypted email and went by the pseudonyms “Alice” and “Bob”.  

  On June 8, 2021, the FBI agent made a payment of $10,000 in cryptocurrency to “Alice,” who is believed to be Mr. Toebbe, who then made a drop-off at a location in West Virginia, with his wife. The SD card containing sensitive information was placed in half of a peanut butter sandwich at the site. The FBI agent then made an additional $20,000 in cryptocurrency, to be able to decrypt the information on the SD card. The information on the SD card was revealed to contain top-secret information about submarine nuclear reactors. 

  On  July 31, a drop-off was made at a location in Pennsylvania, the SD card is hidden in a Band-Aid wrapper, the SD card had redacted documents from the Justice Department. As well, “Alice” had requested a $5 M. payment from the agent to prove that “the recipient was not a federal agent attempting to lure them.”. 

  On Aug 28, in Virginia, another drop-off was made, this time the SD card was placed inside the wrapper of chewing gum, this SD card also contained information about the submarine nuclear reactors.  


Mr. Toebbe and his wife were finally arrested on Oct. 9, after they made another dead drop at a location in West Virginia. 


According to The Independent: “They made their first court appearance in federal court in West Virginia on 12 October wearing orange jumpsuits and surgical masks. The couple will return to court for detention hearings on 15 October followed by preliminary examination hearings on 20 October.”