MARTINSBURG — One day after being indicted on charges that alleged the selling of classified data on nuclear-powered submarines to an unnamed foreign country, the Maryland couple appeared in federal court Wednesday during which both pleaded not guilty to the three counts alleged.
Jonathan Toebbe, 42, a Navy nuclear engineer, and his wife, Diana, 45, are both charged with conspiracy to communicate restricted data and two counts of communication of restricted data. For each count, they face a maximum up to life in prison, a $100,000 fine and five years of supervised release.
Prosecutors allege Jonathan stole classified data under his clearance over a period of years, since at least 2018, according to testimony Wednesday by FBI Special Agent, Peter Olinits, with the Pittsburgh, Pa. branch.
Jonathan then is alleged to have tried to pass the restricted data that dealt with the design of the Virginia-class submarine, nuclear-powered warships currently used by the Navy until 2060, to an unnamed country in exchange for payment in cryptocurrency. However, he was in fact selling to an undercover FBI agent.
It is alleged that Diana Toebbe, a private school teacher, aided and abetted her husband by serving as a lookout during three of the four “dead-drops” at which the sensitive information was left and collected by the FBI. Two of the four locations were in Jefferson County.
Some evidence of these allegations — including still images and video surveillance, which were only published to the court and defense counsel — was presented Wednesday as part of a detention hearing in the case of Diana. Earlier in the day, Jonathan waived his right to a detention hearing.
Local agents became involved in December 2020 when they retrieved a package containing U.S. Navy documents from the FBI’s legal attache, which representatives from the country had received in April through the mail.
The letter attempted to establish a covert relationship and contained an SD card with 76 pages of confidential restricted data. This was authenticated by a Navy subject expert, according to testimony.
Olinits said the letter gave the unnamed country until Dec. 31 to respond or they would go to other potential buyers. That was when a dead drop was set up for June 26 in Jefferson County.
Three other dead drops were done including one on July 21 in Pennsylvania, one on Aug. 27 in Eastern Virginia and the final one on Oct. 9 back in Jefferson County, according to the agent.They were subsequently arrested on this date.
In total, $100,000 in Monero cryptocurrency was paid to the Toebbes in exchange for the secrets, which has not been located up to this point in the investigation. According to testimony, also not recovered so far is the 50 additional packets of restricted data stolen by Jonathan.
Also on Oct. 9, the FBI conducted a search warrant on the couple’s home in Annapolis, Md. Olinits said among the items seized was $11,300 in cash, a crypto wallet, a trash bag of shredded documents, children’s valid passports and a “go-bag” containing a USB flash drive, latex gloves and a Macintosh operated laptop.
According to Olinits, he requested the court to keep Diana detained pending the trial in the case, describing her as a potential flight risk.
Specifically, he pointed to an encrypted text messaging app the Toebbes would use to sometimes communicate.
Diana is alleged to have said things such as “let’s go sooner rather than later” and “we need to be actively making plans to leave the country.” Her lawyer, Edward MacMahon, raised the possibility that she wanted to leave the country due to President Donald Trump’s possible reelection.
Other evidence discussed when asking for her to remain detained included the discovery that she and her husband were trying to get their passports renewed expeditiously and the fact that their joint bank accounts have enough funds to leave the country.
MacMahon argued the case against his client is based on suspicion because there was no evidence presented that she ever knew what her husband was doing or what his plans were, stating there is no evidence tying her to the letters, no evidence she had access to restricted data and no evidence via wiretap conversations.
The government, however, disagreed, noting the aforementioned messages. It was said Plan A and Plan B was mentioned by the couple.
A ruling was not made at the end of Diana’s detention hearing Wednesday afternoon. On Thursday an order to detain Diana was issued by the court. She will remain in custody during this pre-trial process.
In addition to the matter of detention, the court laid out a tentative trial schedule in both cases. Any plea agreement must be filed by Nov. 30, a pretrial was scheduled for Dec. 9 and a trial for Dec. 14.