Before US Navy nuclear engineer Jonathan Toebbe was accused of trying to pass secrets about US nuclear submarines to what he believed to be a foreign government, he was a science professor in a high school in Colorado.
Toebbe worked at Kent Denver School in Cherry Hills Village from 2005 to 2008, the school confirmed on Monday.
Toebbe’s wife, Diana, also worked at the science department’s private school. She taught high school students from 2005 to 2012, according to Kent Denver.
Diana also faces federal criminal charges in this case.
Kent Denver did not respond to a question about the couple’s reasons for quitting their jobs at the school.
Jonathan Toebbe’s LinkedIn page also states that he attended Colorado School of Mines from 2008-2012, where he earned a master’s degree in nuclear engineering. The university did not immediately return an email on Monday seeking to confirm that he had attended school.
Jonathan Toebbe, 42, began working for the U.S. government in 2012, holding a top-secret security clearance and specializing in naval nuclear propulsion, the FBI said. He was also assigned to a government-owned lab in the Pittsburgh area that officials say works on nuclear power for the US Navy.
In a criminal complaint detailing espionage charges against Jonathan Toebbe, the government said it sold information for nearly a year to a contact it said represented a foreign power. This country was not named in court documents.
The person Toebbe was in contact with was actually an undercover FBI agent.
Jonathan Toebbe was arrested Saturday in West Virginia with Diana, 45, after placing a removable memory card in a pre-established “dead drop” in the state, according to the Department of Justice.
It was not immediately clear whether the Toebbes, originally from Annapolis, MD, had lawyers. The Navy declined to comment on Sunday.
The FBI says the program began in April 2020 when Jonathan Toebbe sent a package of Navy documents to a foreign government and wrote that he was interested in selling operations manuals, performance reports to that country. and other sensitive information.
Authorities say he also provided instructions on how to conduct the stealth relationship, with a letter that read: “I apologize for this poor translation into your language. Please forward this letter to your military intelligence agency. I believe this information will be of great value to your nation. This is not a hoax. “
The package, which had a return address in Pittsburgh, was allegedly obtained by the FBI last December through its legal attaché office in the unspecified foreign country. Court documents do not explain how the FBI came to receive the package or from whom.
Regardless, the FBI used Toebbe’s outreach as a launching pad for a month-long undercover operation in which an agent posing as the representative of a foreign contact made contact with Toebbe and agreed to pay thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency for the information Toebbe was offering. .
After weeks of emailing back and forth, the undercover agent in June sent Toebbe about $ 10,000 in cryptocurrency, describing it as a sign of good faith and trust, according to the FBI.
Weeks later, federal agents watched the Toebbes arrive at an agreed location in West Virginia for the exchange, with Diana Toebbe appearing to be a lookout for her husband in a dead end operation for which the FBI paid 20,000. $.
The FBI recovered a blue memory card wrapped in plastic and placed between two slices of bread on half of a peanut butter sandwich, according to court documents. The recordings on the memory card included design elements and performance characteristics of the Virginia-class submarine reactors.
The Justice Department describes these submarines as “rapid cruise missile attack submarines, which incorporate the latest technologies in stealth, intelligence gathering and weapon systems.”
The memory card also included a typed message which read, in part: “I hope your experts are very satisfied with the sample provided and I understand the importance of a little exchange to increase our confidence.
The FBI conducted similar dead end exchanges over the following months, including one in August in eastern Virginia for which Toebbe was paid around $ 70,000. In this case, according to prosecutors, he hid in a packet of gum a memory card containing diagrams for the Virginia-class submarine.
The complaint alleges violations of the Atomic Energy Act, which restricts the disclosure of information relating to atomic weapons or nuclear materials.
The Toebbes are scheduled to appear in court Tuesday in Martinsburg, West Virginia. Prosecutors on Monday asked a federal judge to keep the Toebbes in jail while their case against him progressed.
In the detention note, prosecutors checked boxes indicating they believed the Toebbes posed a risk of flight and obstruction of justice. They also ticked boxes showing that the prosecution, under the Atomic Energy Act, involves an “offense for which the maximum penalty is life imprisonment or death.”
Associated Press reporter Eric Tucker contributed to this report.