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Navy engineer accused of trying to pass intel in peanut butter sandwich

A Navy engineer accused of hiding restricted information about nuclear-powered submarines in a peanut butter sandwich faces espionage-related charges, according to federal court documents unsealed Sunday.

The man, Jonathan Toebbe, 42, was arrested Saturday in West Virginia on suspicion of conspiracy to communicate restricted data and other crimes, federal prosecutors in the state’s northern district said in a statement.

His wife, Diana Toebbe, 45, a teacher in Maryland, was arrested on allegations that she assisted him.

A criminal complaint alleges that Toebbe — who began working with the Navy in 2012 — sent a package containing military documents and other files to a military intelligence agency in the country he was trying to establish a relationship with.

The package wound up with an FBI attaché in the country, which is not identified, the complaint says.

Beginning in February, an undercover FBI agent began emailing Toebbe — who is alleged to have used the moniker “Alice” — through an encrypted messaging service, according to the complaint, which says that in the following months, he provided the agent with documents containing restricted details about Virginia-class submarines, which are nuclear-powered fast attack warships.

On June 26, FBI agents watched Toebbe leave what was alleged to be an SD card that had been wrapped in plastic and placed in a peanut butter sandwich at a “dead drop” location in West Virginia, according to the complaint. During a separate drop, he used a Band-Aid wrapper and a plastic bag to hide an SD card, it says.

The documents accuse Diana Toebbe of helping conduct surveillance to determine whether they were being followed.

By Aug. 28, the FBI had paid Jonathan Toebbe $100,000 in Monero, a cryptocurrency, the documents say. The next day, he sent an email thanking the person he believed was a foreign agent for their partnership, the documents allege.

“One day, when it is safe, perhaps two old friends will have a chance to stumble into each other at a cafe, share a bottle of wine and laugh over stories of their shared exploits,” he is alleged to have written, adding: “I will always remember your bravery in serving your country and your commitment to helping me.”

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the Toebbes have attorneys. Federal court records did not list them.

The couple are scheduled to appear in federal court Tuesday in Martinsburg, West Virginia.

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