Defense

Accused wife in Navy submarine spy case ordered to remain in jail

The woman accused of helping her husband sell classified data on nuclear-powered submarines to foreign governments was ordered to remain in jail on Thursday.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Trumble issued a written order directing Diana Toebbe, 45, to remain behind bars pending trial. She is accused of serving as a lookout for her husband, Jonathan Toebbe, 42, when he would allegedly try to pass on classified information to foreign governments in covert ways, according to The Washington Post.

Both Toebbes were arrested on Oct. 9 by the FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service in West Virginia on allegations that they had been selling data on the design of nuclear-powered warships for nearly a year to an individual who they believed was a representative of a foreign government, but was actually an undercover FBI agent.

The couple was charged with violating the Atomic Energy Act, and have both pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors said Jonathan Toebbe asked for $100,000 in exchange for a link that would allow an individual to download classified information. The FBI paid him $10,000 in June, which prompted him to drop an SD card in a predetermined location, according to prosecutors.

Jonathan Toebbe has also been accused of hiding an SD card in a gum wrapper and in a plastic bag placed inside a peanut butter sandwich, while prosecutors say that Diana Toebbe served as a lookout for three of the four drop-offs.

Jonathan Toebbe was ordered to remain in jail until the trial begins on Dec. 14, but Diana Toebbe's attorney Edward MacMahon had argued against his client going behind bars, contending that the FBI does not have evidence that shows she was aware that her husband was handing over classified information to another country.

"It's just speculation," MacMahon said, according to NBC News.

The judge on Thursday, however, said the evidence involving Diana Toebbe is "strong," according to the Post. Trumble also argued that Diana Toebbe is a flight risk, pointing to text messages she sent to her husband in 2019 and 2020 where she allegedly showed aspirations to depart the U.S.

MacMahon rejected that notion, contending that the mother of two children would not flee the country. He also said the majority of the evidence prosecutors have involves Jonathan Toebbe, not her.

"She's not going to flee the United States and leave her children here. That's not going to happen," MacMahon said, according to the Post. "The government really doesn't have much of a case against her."

Jonathan Toebbe was a nuclear engineer at the Navy working on the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, which is how he reportedly gained access to restricted data involving naval nuclear propulsion.

The case was discovered after an unnamed foreign government sent the FBI a letter that offered to sell U.S. government secrets for money, according to the Post.

The FBI then established an undercover operation, according to court documents and testimony cited by the Post, emailing with the person selling the information and setting up "dead drop" exchanges, where the undercover agent, disguised as a foreign intelligence service handler, gave the individual cryptocurrency in exchange for the data.

The Hill reached out to MacMahon for comment.

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