Navy Nuclear Engineer’s Wife Pleads Guilty to Selling Submarine Secrets

by Matthew Memrick

A Navy nuclear engineer’s wife matched her husband’s guilty plea of selling submarine secrets last week.

Federal prosecutors said Diane Toebbe, with her husband Jonathan, conducted an espionage plot with hidden devices to sell nuclear secrets to another country. People magazine reported on the court decision

The government charged the couple on Oct. 19, 2021.

Diane Toebbe admitted to her part in the conspiracy to communicate restricted data of nuclear-powered warships. The Department of Justice said the woman was a “lookout” for her husband and three dead drop occasions.

Jonathan Toebbe pled guilty last week. He thought he was communicating with a foreign country that turned out to be an FBI agent. Court documents never identified the foreign country.

Submarine Secrets Couple Caught In October

Jonathan Toebbe, 42, worked for the U.S. Navy as a civilian engineer. He had previously served for that armed services branch. Reportedly, his superiors awarded him with the National Defense Service Medal, the Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medal, and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal during his naval career. 

However, Toebbe left the Navy in December of 2020. 

Diane Toebbe, 45, was a full-time teacher at The Key School. According to CBS Baltimore, the woman also posted knitting videos on YouTube and of her family’s vacations on Instagram.

Reportedly, financial struggles and political motivations factored into the couple’s spy plans

Department of Justice officials said Jonathan Toebbe sent a package in April 2020 to an unnamed foreign government. It had “a sample of Restricted Data and instructions for establishing a covert relationship to purchase additional Restricted Data.”

However, the government passed it along to American officials. They organized a plan to communicate with the civilian engineer through encrypted email.

The two parties agreed that Toebbe would pass along the submarine secrets for tens of thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency.

After three dead drops (one drop had Toebbe hiding a storage card in half of a peanut butter sandwich) over four months, authorities arrested the couple after learning the secret information pertained to submarine nuclear reactors. Authorities said the drops occurred at Maryland, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania locations.

When authorities searched the couple’s Maryland home, they found a go-bag filled with money, cryptocurrency, and passports for their children if they’d have to fee the country and destroy evidence. 

Toebbe Couple Facing Years Of Imprisonment

Facing maximum lifetime prison sentences, the couple with two children will serve much less time. 

Jonathan Toebbe will serve “a minimum of 151 months, or 12 and a half years, in federal prison,” authorities said last week.

Diana Toebbe faces a minor sentence of “not more than 36 months of imprisonment in federal prison.”

A judge will determine the sentencing at a future date.