US FBI Arrests Nuclear Engineer for Selling Classified Data for Bitcoin
A nuclear scientist and his wife were detained in West Virginia on treason and trading sensitive data charges. For nearly a year, the pair sold confidential info on nuclear-powered battleship blueprints to a person they thought represented a foreign country. The contact, nevertheless, was a disguised FBI agent who received payment for the material in bitcoin.
On Saturday, Oct. 9, the FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) arrested Jonathan and Diana Toebbe. They are supposed to testify in federal court on Tuesday, October 12.
“The lawsuit alleges a conspiracy to transfer secrets related to development of our nuclear submarines to another country,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland.
Jonathan Toebbe worked as a nuclear physicist for the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program and had an extremely prominent security clearance from the United States Department of Defense.
The FBI caught wind about Toebbe in April 2020 after discovering that he had delivered a box containing sample info as well as directions on the way to initiate clandestine contacts and buy additional material.
After obtaining certain sample info, an undercover detective paid Toebbe $10,000 in an unidentified cryptocurrency in June 2021 as “good faith” payment. The pair utilized a “dead drop” to conceal an SD card with further data inside a portion of a peanut butter sandwich, for which the spy paid an additional $20,000 in cryptocurrency for the decryption keys.
In a subsequent dead drop, the FBI paid Toebbe $70,000 in cryptocurrency in return for further information about the US nuclear submarines. The pair was apprehended by the FBI after a third drop was planned.
The event is not the first time that government authorities in the United States have utilized cryptocurrencies as an element of investigations into criminal behavior. The US State Department started providing bitcoin as remuneration for critical data led to the arrest of high-ranking international terrorist suspects via its “rewards for Justice” portal in August.