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

A U.S. Navy engineer who allegedly hid restricted information about nuclear-powered submarines in a peanut-butter sandwich faces espionage-related charges, according to federal court documents unsealed Sunday.

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 Maryland teacher, was also arrested on allegations that she assisted him.

According to a criminal complaint, Toebbe — who began working with the Navy in 2012 — allegedly 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 country is not identified in the complaint, and the package wound up with an FBI attache there, the complaint says.

Beginning in February, an undercover FBI agent began emailing Toebbe — who allegedly used the moniker “Alice” — through an encrypted messaging service. In the following months Toebbe allegedly provided the agent with documents containing restricted details about Virginia-class submarines, a nuclear-powered fast attack warship.

On June 26, FBI agents watched Toebbe allegedly leave 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 allegedly used a Band-aid wrapper and a plastic bag to hide an SD card.

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

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

“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 allegedly wrote, adding: “I will always remember your bravery in serving your country and your commitment to helping me.”

It wasn’t immediately clear if Jonathan or Diana Toebbe have lawyers. Federal court records didn’t list them.

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