United States: cryptocurrency, undercover FBI agent … the extraordinary story of a couple arrested for espionage

ESPIONAGE – An American couple were arrested in West Virginia on Saturday and charged with nuclear espionage for the benefit of a foreign government. Or rather, an undercover FBI agent. Explanations.

A Hollywood spy story. An American couple were arrested in West Virginia on Saturday and charged with nuclear espionage, for the benefit of a foreign government. In fact, the latter turned out to be an undercover FBI agent, who paid them with cryptocurrency.

“For almost a year”, writes the US Department of Justice, 42-year-old nuclear engineer Jonathan Toebbe, assisted by his wife of 45, Diana, “sold protected information on the design of nuclear-powered warships to someone they believed to be a representative of a foreign power “, but who was “an undercover FBI agent”.

“A trusted friend in your country”

The complaint of the federal prosecutor, made public, tells how this agent came into contact with the suspect, employed in the nuclear propulsion program of the navy, after the interception of a first package containing in particular “navy documents” and a computer card giving the procedure for establishing contact on an encrypted messaging system. The package was intended for a foreign country which was not disclosed by the courts.

According to excerpts from the exchanges, the undercover agent proposes “a gift” from “from a trusted friend in your countryBut the engineer, based in Annapolis, capital of the state of Maryland, is wary and wants to be paid in cryptocurrency. In several times between June and August, the man received payments in cryptocurrency for $ 100,000, in exchange of which he handed over confidential information related to nuclear reactors of submarines.

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Cards hidden in peanut butter

This data was contained on encrypted SD cards, deposited at pre-arranged locations in West Virginia, and concealed in a peanut butter sandwich or packet of chewing gum. The engineer wrote there under the name “Alice”. The couple were arrested by the FBI on Saturday after again dropping an SD card at a meeting place.

Indicted for violating the atomic energy law, the Toebbe will appear in court for the first time on Tuesday in the case, in federal court in Martinsburg, West Virginia.

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