A disgraced Navy nuclear engineer and his wife, who planned to flee the United States because of President Trump, are now facing a combined 20 years in prison for to trying to sell secrets about American nuclear-powered warships.
The treasonous Democrat couple approached Brazil with the classified information, it has been revealed.
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Jonathan Toebbe, 42, and his teacher spouse, Diana, 45, wore orange jumpsuits and blue face masks as they faced a judge in Martinsburg, WV, for a formal reading of the criminal charges against them.
Toebbe and his Trump-hating teacher wife, Diana, were arrested last October after prosecutors said he approached a foreign government in an attempt to provide the nation with thousands of pages of stolen classified documents about the nuclear reactors that power the U.S. submarine fleet.
Daily Mail report: The identity of the foreign power had been concealed by federal prosecutors. It was widely speculated to have been France after investigators revealed the Toebbes had contacted a friendly foreign power, rather than an adversary.
However, a senior Brazilian official and others familiar with the investigation have since confirmed Toebbe approached their government during April 2020, the New York Times reported on Tuesday.
Analysts allege Toebbe’s outreach was an ‘odd choice’ given then-President Donald Trump and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro had strengthened the alliance between the countries. Some argue at that time U.S.-Brazilian relations were the closest they’d been in decades.
And despite the Brazilian government being keen to develop its own military technology, the country’s officials were in no mood to steal American secrets.
The Toebbes’ plot quickly unraveled after officials there contacted the FBI, who then posed as their South American counterparts and devised a sting.
Confirmation that Toebbe contacted Brazil comes one month after he pleaded guilty in federal court in Martinsburg, West Virginia, to a single count of conspiracy to communicate restricted data. Diana, 45, still denies the charges against them.
He faces up to 17 years in jail, while she faces up to three years behind bars.
The FBI said the Toebbes’ scheme began in April 2020, when Toebbe sent a package of Navy documents to a Brazilian military intelligence agency and wrote that he was interested in selling to that country operations manuals, performance reports and other sensitive information.
Upon receipt, the agency told FBI investigators of Toebbe’s ploy promoting an undercover FBI agent to posed as Brazilian official in an elaborate sting which ended with the couple’s arrests.
That package was obtained by the FBI last December through its legal attaché office in Brazil.
That set off a monthlong undercover operation in which the agent made contact with Toebbe and agreed to pay $100,000 in cryptocurrency for the information Toebbe was offering. Toebbe was already paid $70,000 before he was caught.
According to the New York Times, Toebbe was initially hesitant to deliver the classified documents to the undercover agent and questioned their identity.
‘I am concerned that using a dead drop location your friend prepares makes me very vulnerable,’ Toebbe wrote to the agent, according to court records. ‘For now, I must consider the possibility that you are not the person I hope you are.’
In effort to convince Toebbe he was speaking with a Brazilian official, the FBI agent instructed him to look for a signal placed in a window on a Brazilian government building in Washington D.C. during Memorial Day weekend.
After seeing the signal, Toebbe allegedly agreed to drop a sample of the stolen documents to the official. He had hidden them in a peanut butter sandwich.
Diana was accused of serving as an accomplice and a ‘lookout’ at several prearranged ‘dead-drop’ locations at which her husband deposited memory cards containing government secrets, concealing them in objects such as a chewing gum wrapper, a Band-Aid wrapper and the peanut butter sandwich. She has pleaded not guilty to the charges and the case against her remains pending.
FBI agents who searched the couple’s Annapolis, Maryland, home found a trash bag of shredded documents, thousands of dollars in cash, valid children’s passports and a ‘go-bag’ containing a USB flash drive and latex gloves.
Diana previously said her husband only wanted to flee the country because she hated Donald Trump, a court has been told.
Her lawyers claim she only wanted to exit the U.S. because of her disdain for the former president, and not because she was worried about getting caught for allegedly trying to sell the classified information.
The attorneys made the claim in court papers filed last month, complete with an exchange of messages said to have taken place between Toebbe and her husband Jonathan in March 2019.
Those texts also allegedly saw Diana discuss fleeing to France.
Diana begins: ‘We need to get out.’ Toebbe appears bored with her statement, answering: ‘*sigh* where? To do what?’
His wife then says: ‘To anywhere. To do something else. To teach in international schools. To take Macron up on his offer to harbor scientific refugees.’
In an apparent attempt to calm Diana, Toebbe says: ‘Biden/Warren will curb stomp Trump/Pence.’
But Diana was undeterred, and replied: ‘WE NEED TO GET OUT. Hilary (sic) was going to curb stomp trump. I’m done.’
Toebbe then touted then-unpublished Mueller Report into alleged collusion between Team Trump and Russia, which ended up posing no threat to Trump’s presidency.
He wrote: ‘The Mueller report is coming real soon.’
But Diana remained angry, answering: ‘It’s been too long. Nothing has changed. He’s still in power.’
Toebbe replied: ‘Nothing in government moves that fast — believe me, I speak from personal experience.’
Diana then said: ‘(Trump crony) Manafort got a slap on the wrist. It’s a signal that the entire system is rigged.’
The chat then turned to escaping, with Jonathan saying: ‘We’ve got passports, and some savings. In a real pinch we can flee quickly.’
And Diana answered: ‘Right. Let’s go sooner than later.’
The pair were arrested in October and charged with selling secret information about nuclear submarines to an undercover FBI agent who posed as an operative for a foreign country.
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