The wife of a US Navy engineer has pleaded guilty to helping her husband try to sell secrets about nuclear submarines to a foreign country.
Diana Toby, 46, was watching while her husband stuffed the classified information into a peanut butter sandwich and left it unremarkable.
Diana, a former teacher, will serve a prison sentence of up to three years, depending on the deal she made with prosecutors.
Her husband, 42-year-old Jonathan Toby, pleaded guilty earlier this week and will spend 12-17 years in prison based on a deal he made with prosecutors.
The couple pleaded guilty in federal court in West Virginia to conspiracy to reveal confidential data.
The maximum penalty for this crime is life imprisonment.
Jonathan Toby was an expert in nuclear submarine propulsion systems, one of the most classified information in the United States.
Toby attempted to sell the information to a foreign government and sent messages to someone he believed was a foreign official, according to the Department of Justice, while that person was an undercover FBI agent.
Before their arrest, the couple lived with their two children in Annapolis, Maryland, where the Naval Academy is based.
Diana Toby was a history and English teacher at a private school, and holds a doctorate in anthropology from Emory University in Atlanta.
As for Jonathan, he served in the US Navy before joining the US Army Reserve, and worked in the Office of the Commander of Naval Operations in Arlington, Virginia.
Authorities intercepted messages from the couple about urgently leaving the United States, and Diana’s lawyers said the messages were related to an unwillingness to stay under former President Donald Trump and not a conspiracy to sell information to a foreign party.
The investigation reported that Jonathan Toby collected information over the years on nuclear submarines and smuggled documents from his workplace, a few pages at a time, so that he could pass through inspection devices.
“I was very careful to get the information slowly, a few pages at a time,” he wrote to the investigator, who was believed to be an agent of a foreign country.
Toby trusted the man and did not realize that he was a security agency agent, so he fell into the trap.
“One day, when it’s safe, two old friends may meet by chance in a café, open a bottle of wine, bring back old memories and laugh,” Toby wrote in a note about his friendship with the alleged security guard.
It is not unusual for the prosecution to conclude settlement deals with defendants in such cases, but it is possible. Federal investigations take cases like this very seriously, security experts say, but authorities may want to support a slightly reduced sentence if defendants agree to provide them with information that could help them in future security operations.
“Prosecutors sometimes drop their demand for the maximum sentence if defendants agree to release information that might help expose future clients,” says Daniel Richard, a professor of law at Columbia University in New York.
In this case, the investigators wanted information from the defendants, namely their demand for $100,000 in digital currency in exchange for selling nuclear secrets, and they agreed to help the FBI recover the digital currency sent to them during the investigation that led to their arrest.
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