Two again admit to peddling nuclear subsecrets and face harsher sentences – Reuters

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Maryland couple charged with attempting to sell military secrets to a foreign country pleaded guilty for the second time on Tuesday, weeks after a federal judge struck down their previous deals with prosecutors, deeming those deals too lenient.

Jonathan Toebbe, 43, a Navy civil engineer with a top-secret security clearance, and Diana Toebbe, 46, a teacher at a private school in their hometown of Annapolis, now face longer prison sentences under revised plea agreements with federal prosecutors. Their sentencing dates are pending.

The Toebbes pleaded guilty for the first time earlier this year, but U.S. District Judge Gina M. Groh in Martinsburg, W.Va., rejected their deals with prosecutors in August, calling them too lenient. These plea bargains would have resulted in Jonathan Toebbe being sentenced to 12½ to 17½ years in prison and Diana Toebbe to three years.

Diana Toebbe now faces a sentence of at least 12 and a half years and Jonathan Toebbe faces more than 21 years in prison.

Plea deals overturned for couple accused of peddling nuclear subsecrets

Appearing in federal court on Tuesday, the Toebbes admitted to conspiring to sell restricted data on submarine nuclear propulsion systems to a foreign country, a violation of the Atomic Energy Act that carries a maximum prison sentence. for life.

The country, which is not named in the court documents, sat on the couple’s offer for months before passing it on to US counterintelligence officials. FBI agents launched an undercover operation, posing as agents of the foreign country, and at one point caused the country’s embassy to post a signal at a set time, to engender trust with the Toebbes.

Once their plan was in motion, the suburban couple, who have two children, turned to spy tactics and cryptocurrency transactions, according to court documents.

Who are the husband and wife from Maryland who admitted trying to sell nuclear submarine secrets?

Officers said they recorded Jonathan Toebbe for several months in 2021 leaving data cards at pre-arranged ‘dead drop’ sites – concealing them in a peanut butter sandwich, gum packet and adhesive bandage wrapper .

“I conspired with Diana Toebbe to communicate confidential data to another person for the purpose of obtaining an advantage for a foreign nation,” Jonathan Toebbe told a hearing on Tuesday.

Diana Toebbe admitted she “acted as a lookout” at three dead falls, two of which were conducted in Jefferson County, W.Va.

Officials said Jonathan Toebbe had provided thousands of pages of documents and his espionage ambitions had been building for years. The restricted data he provided to undercover FBI agents included “some of the most secure and sensitive information about our nuclear-powered fleet”, according to a statement submitted to the court by the commander of US submarine forces, the Vice Admiral William J. Houston. .

The documents included schematics and performance specifications for a state-of-the-art attack submarine that costs about $3 billion to produce. Jonathan Toebbe had worked for the Navy for nearly a decade on nuclear propulsion technology, which allows submarines to stay underwater for longer periods of time and move more stealthily, according to court documents.

“The information was slowly and carefully collected over several years in the normal course of my work to avoid attracting attention and smuggling through security checkpoints a few pages at a time,” Toebbe wrote in a communication. .

U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert W. Trumble accepted the Toebbes’ revised pleas on Tuesday. But he said it will be up to Groh, the same judge who threw out previous plea deals, to impose their sentences.

Public defender Jonathan Toebbe did not respond to a request for comment.

Barry P. Beck, a lawyer for Diana Toebbe, previously said a three-year sentence would be appropriate because her role in the conspiracy was limited. “Her husband had an ill-conceived idea to make money, and she agreed to go with it,” Beck said in August. He did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

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