U.S. Navy nuclear engineer Jonathan Toebbe pleaded guilty to a charge arising from an attempt to sell closely held American submarine secrets to an unidentified foreign government, the New York Times reports. The engineer, who may face 12 to 17 years in prison, was arrested in October with his wife, Diana Toebbe. In charging the case, prosecutors alleged that Toebbe wrote to a foreign country offering to sell information about submarine nuclear reactors in exchange for cryptocurrency. Undercover FBI agents were able to contact Toebbe and convince him that they were representatives of the foreign government. The agents paid him cryptocurrency, and he delivered memory cards to a drop location, with his wife serving as a lookout.
Both Toebbes were initially charged with offenses stemming from the communication of restricted data, though only Jonathan Toebbe has pleaded guilty. Mrs. Toebbe' was not a party to the agreement. Jonathan Toebbe admitted that his wife was involved with the conspiracy and committed overt acts in furtherance of it. The wide range in possible sentences for Toebbe could signal that the government seeks further cooperation from him. Mrs. Toebbe's attorneys are pleading her innocence with her case still set for trial. Her attorneys maintain that she knew nothing of the plot despite her appearance at several of the drop locations, and that she did not possess the knowledge to commit a crime. Former officials maintain that if Mrs. Toebbe had knowledge of what her husband was doing, even seemingly small actions such as serving as a lookout would be sufficiently serious to require making an example of her with serious jail time.