The FBI and the NCIS on Saturday arrested a US Navy Engineer and his wife for attempting to sell nuclear secrets to a ‘foreign party’
Jonathan Toebbe, a US Navy nuclear engineer, and his wife Diana Toebbe were apprehended by federal authorities for allegedly trading confidential military information. The couple was busted while making what would have been the third dead-drop in Jefferson County, West Virginia. Toebbe is said to have received a total of $100,000 worth of Monero (XMR) from an undercover FBI agent who posed as a representative of a foreign power looking to buy military secrets.
An engineer working under the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, Toebbe had been selling information on the design of nuclear-powered warships to the ‘foreign power’ for about a year. His position as a nuclear engineer in the Navy earned him national security clearance through the US Department of Defense, which allowed him to get his hands on confidential information.
He first sent restricted information to a foreign government in April last year. The nuclear engineer used encrypted email to make arrangements with the other party, whom he believed represented a foreign country. The exchange went on for months before they settled on a deal that would see him receive Monero for the information he stole.
Toebbe received the first payment, $10,000 in cryptocurrency, which was meant to cement the relationship at the beginning of June. He then delivered an SD card hidden in a sandwich at a pre-arranged location in West Virginia with his wife as a lookout on 26 June. He then sent the decryption key for the SD card, which had information on submarine nuclear reactors, via email after receiving a second $20,000 payment in crypto.
Two months later, he made a similar drop but this time in Eastern Virginia. He used a chewing gum package to hide the SD card, and after sending the decryption key, he got paid $70,000. Oblivious that the whole exchange had been a setup, Toebbe went on to deliver the third ‘package’ on Saturday but was arrested at the location by FBI agents who had been trailing him. The agents reportedly tracked Toebbe and identified him at the first two dead drops.
It is believed the couple resorted to using the privacy-oriented Monero for the transaction because of its high level of anonymity. The coin is known to be almost impossible to trace as its addresses aren’t publicly visible except to the parties involved in the transaction. Its use in criminal activities has seen different departments in the government contract experts to build tools and systems that can track transactions involving the cryptocurrency.