A US navy engineer who hid a memory card loaded with classified files in a peanut butter sandwich and left it at a “dead drop” location has been charged with selling secrets about nuclear submarines.
Jonathan Toebbe is alleged to have sent a package of restricted data to an unidentified country last year, and later began selling secrets to an undercover FBI agent posing as a foreign official, the Justice Department said.
In exchange for the information, he received separate cryptocurrency payments totalling $100,000 (£73,500).
At one point, the 42-year-old hid a digital memory card containing documents about nuclear reactors in half a peanut butter sandwich at a “dead drop” location in West Virginia, with his wife Diana as a lookout.
A dead drop is an old-school espionage trick in which a source leaves an item of value at an agreed hiding spot for a recipient to retrieve without being spotted.
The card contained “militarily sensitive design elements, operating parameters and performance characteristics of Virginia-class submarine reactors”, according to federal court documents.
Another memory card was concealed in a packet of chewing gum.
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- West Virginia
Throughout, Toebbe had top-level secret security clearance.
He and his wife, who are from Annapolis, Maryland, were arrested in West Virginia on Saturday.
They were both charged with conspiracy and “communication of restricted data” in violation of the Atomic Energy Act, and are scheduled to appear at a West Virginia federal court on Tuesday.