The Navy engineer accused of trying to sell secrets about US nuclear submarines using a peanut butter sandwich made his first appearance in federal court Tuesday along with his alleged accomplice wife.
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.
Neither defendant spoke during the brief hearing, other than to answer the judge’s questions indicating they understood their rights.
The pair, who live in Annapolis, Md., also did not have lawyers present, and US Magistrate Judge Robert Trumble informed them they qualify for court-appointed attorneys.
The Toebbes will remain in jail pending a detention hearing scheduled for Friday.
The couple was arrested Saturday by FBI agents following a yearlong sting operation.
The feds allege that Jonathan Toebbe — a nuclear engineer with top-secret security clearance — sent a package of restricted Navy documents and other materials to an unnamed foreign country in April 2020, along with instructions for how to obtain additional information.
Over the course of several months, Toebbe, with the help of his wife, allegedly peddled additional military secrets to an undercover FBI agent posing as a foreign official in exchange for $100,000 in cryptocurrency.
According to a criminal complaint, Toebbe once stashed the hush-hush data about US submarine nuclear reactors on a blue, plastic-coated SD memory card — then sandwiched the tiny device between two slabs of bread slathered with peanut butter.
He also allegedly used a Band-Aid wrapper and pack of chewing gum to help hide SD cards at other times.
His wife, a teacher at a progressive private school in Annapolis, allegedly acted as a lookout, the Justice Department said.
The wannabe spies were bagged after placing another memory card at a drop site in Jefferson County, WV — and have been accused by the FBI of violating the Atomic Energy Act.