The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia handed down sentences Wednesday against Navy submarine engineer Jonathan Toebbe and his wife Diana as part of a federal treason case involving the alleged attempt to sell secrets about nuclear-powered submarines to a foreign government.
Prosecutors say Jonathan Toebbe used his position and access to top-secret government information to sell documents regarding the design and performance of Virginia-class submarines. Diana Toebbe acted as a lookout at “dead-drop” locations where memory cards with the info were left. These cards were hidden in items like chewing gum wrappers and peanut butter sandwiches, which were then exchanged for cryptocurrency as payment.
The U.S. government has since recovered $54,300 of the $100,000 paid to the Toebbes.
Jonathan was sentenced to 19 years and four months in prison, alongside a fine of $45,700, with the court recommending he be placed in a federal facility in Petersburg, Virginia.
Diana was sentenced to 21 years and 10 months in prison, alongside a fine of $50,000. The court recommended she be placed in a federal facility near Annapolis, Maryland.
The sentences come after a plea agreement made by the Toebbes when they re-admitted guilt in September.
Diana’s final sentence is much higher than what was suggested by both her legal team and the U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO), which was at the “low end” of recommended sentencing guidelines at only 36 months.
This is in part because of letters that regional jail staff and government officials intercepted from Diana to Jonathan while incarcerated, attempting to persuade him to admit total guilt while clearing her of any wrongdoing.
District Judge Gina M. Groh called the content of these letters “obstruction of justice” and an attempt to coerce Jonathan into perjury, while the USAO and Toebbe’s lawyers cited mental health issues, unique circumstances and the fact that the letters did not make it to Jonathan as reasons they should not have been taken into consideration during her sentencing.
Jonathan received a slightly lighter sentence, in part because of what Groh cited as his “conduct as opposed to Mrs. Toebbe” while incarcerated at the West Virginia Eastern Regional Jail, helping tutor his fellow inmates in math and grammar.
The couple previously pleaded guilty in February after being arrested in October of last year in Jefferson County. They withdrew their pleas after the initial agreement was rejected in August. At the time, Groh ruled that the sentencing options were “strikingly deficient.”
Under the previous agreement, Jonathan Toebbe would have seen 12 to 17 years in prison. Diana Toebbe would have seen three.