back to article Husband and wife nuclear warship 'spy' team get 20 years each

A woman and her husband, who both copped to trying to sell nuclear warship secrets to a foreign government, have been sentenced to prison, with each set to spend around two decades behind bars. US Navy nuclear engineer Jonathan Toebbe and his wife Diana Toebbe were sentenced to 232 months (19 years, four months) and 262 months …

  1. Robert Moore

    Looking at it another way.

    Room and board for 2 people for 20 years at $350 a month. $168000 This spy game pays. Not great, but not too bad. Although I hear winters at Leavenworth are a bitch.

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      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Looking at it another way.

          Maybe they thought your humorless reply to a joke was tiresome. Maybe they objected to Yet Another recitation of the prison-rape cliché.1 Maybe they similarly found your reference to AIDS gratuitous.

          I didn't downvote, but I didn't think your comment added anything to the discussion, even though I believe the US carceral state is greatly excessive, abusive, discriminatory, and pretty highly placed even on our impressive list of national sins. Handwaving comments about sex crimes doesn't constitute a coherent critique of that system.

          1That's not to suggest prison rape doesn't happen or isn't a horrible problem; just that trotting it out at every mention of incarceration does nothing to help, and in fact trivializes it through pointless repetition.

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

  2. anothercynic Silver badge

    Clearly someone's sleeping on the job...

    ... The reason the judge gave the wife a longer sentence was because the judge believes the wife to be the ringleader. Why did she think so? Because the wife was caught passing a letter to her husband in court, which said something to the effect of her asking him to take the blame so that she could go free (and no doubt carry on doing things).

    Hell, the BBC shows the reasons here:

  3. ecofeco Silver badge

    That's some serious stupid

    You have to be incredibly stupid to think stealing nuclear secrets is a game you can win.

    1. 42656e4d203239 Silver badge

      Re: That's some serious stupid

      >>You have to be incredibly stupid to think stealing nuclear secrets is a game you can win.

      Especially when people interested in those secrets can just, allegedly, get them for the knock down price of a trip to Florida and a stay in a resort of dubious reputation. You might need the odd $2Bn or so for expenses and business consultancy.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Is this a guide for the sort of sentence that Trump will be getting for HIS (alleged) espionage?

  5. Joe Gurman

    The longer sentence for Mrs. Toebbe….

    …. Was because she also lied to federal agents, a crime in the US.

    1. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: The longer sentence for Mrs. Toebbe….

      And tried to induce her husband to lie as well, which is yet another offense.

  6. bombastic bob Silver badge

    From Brazil directly to the CCP

    this is more serious than it appears on the surface (a subtle submariner joke, heh)

    Brazil currently has been GREATLY influenced by the CCP, with mineral interests and other things. (The now former President of Brazil was anti-CCP for example, barely beaten for a split term by his predecessor who is apparently favorable towards the CCP). If the link between CCP and Brazil remains tight, you can be sure that any info obtained by Brazil spies would end up with the CCP.

    And with tensions in S.E. Asia, from Taiwan independence to territory disputes with Japan, it is NOT good for the world to have things like this happen.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: From Brazil directly to the CCP

      What ever the leanings of the Brazilian government they obviously thought the most profitable thing to do was to sell the case straight back the US. Whether they thought this was a sting or whether they felt some brownie points from the the guys up to their north would be helpful, who knows.

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge

        Re: From Brazil directly to the CCP

        a good point. I'm glad they handed it over to FBI (at least this time). Not sure how long this had been going on, though, or who the initial contacts were...

    2. VoiceOfTruth Silver badge

      Re: From Brazil directly to the CCP

      Don't confuse what is good for the USA being "good for the world".

    3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: From Brazil directly to the CCP

      Brazil has a very long delayed project to build its own nuclear submarines. Based on French technology though, and I believe the French were squeamish about passing over nuclear technology for reasons of either security or the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

      So maybe they looked like someone who'd be willing to pay? Except the US use highly enriched (weapons grade) uranium for their subs and the French don't. Which means I'm not sure how compatible the designs would be anyway? Which might explain why Brazil weren't interested.

  7. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    So the "Lady MacBeth" scenario?

    Guess she's not going to be getting off as lightly as Lady M.

    But, y'know kind of an odd choice. Brazil?

    Not, I'd suggest obvious choice for buying nuclear submarine plans.

    Iran. Yeah. Pakistan. Definitely up for a bit of nuclear espionage (how they got their centrifuge tech in the first place).

  8. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge


    And there I was, ready to hand over the details of a turboencabulator to the Chinese for millions.

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Damn!

      Do you think the Chinese will be interested in actual hardware of the type used in an US Attack Submarine?

      1. Mayday Silver badge

        Re: Damn!

        Plenty of military hardware uses Xbox controllers. They’re familiar to the operators, reasonably robust and reliable (ok, you can have those two) and can be replaced more easily than some bespoke kit.

        I CBFd looking up exactly how many and what, but a cursory search found a bomb disposal robot and a couple of other things.

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge

          Re: Damn!

          they must be like QWERTY keyboards, now.

      2. Giles C Silver badge

        Re: Damn!

        I watched a documentary about the tourist trips to the titanic wreckage, I think that one was slightly different in that it uses a Logitech made ps4 controller. It is on iplayer under the travel show if anyone is interested.

        So yes using the game controllers is fairly common

    2. Little Mouse Silver badge

      Re: Damn!

      I've got the plans & parts for an Interociter, if anyone's interested?

      1. DJO Silver badge

        Re: Damn!

        Does it utilise the transperambulation of pseudo-cosmic antimatter?

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge

          Re: Damn!

          no, you're mistaking it for a rectalinear poobah. This particular device uses the more superior 'gonkulator'.

      2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Damn!

        Nah. Video calling will never catch on.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Brazil Nuts

    The other day upon the stair

    I saw a man who wasn’t there

    He wasn’t there again today

    He must be from the CIA

  10. Lordrobot

    Show sentence to gin up public FEAR

    None of the information was classified as top secret or secret, falling into a third category considered confidential. They plead guilty to one felony each conspiracy to communicate restricted data.

    The issue here is the Federal Sentencing guidelines. Any lawyer from the Federal Bench will tell you that these Statutory Guidelines are set up as SHOW SENTENCING to spread fear by the Federal Gov agency to send signals to other would-be lawbreakers.

    Prosecutors alleged but failed to show the couple had any intent to flee the USA. Documents confirmed that the couple had discussed leaving the US but the reason was they hated Stinky Trump, enough to commit their dislike of Trump in email communications to each other.

    This was a plea deal, actually the third plea deal. The judge kept rejecting the plea deals reached by lawyers and prosecutors based on wanting harsher sentencing guidelines. The sentencing guidelines by the court will be appealed. When multiple plea deals are rejected by the court that were approved by prosecutors and attorneys, that is a red flag. The judge has a thin resume, West VA Law school,

    I suspect this couple will spend no more than five years in prison.

    Suppose you were a nuclear engineer and you contacted a foreign gov to sell some information on nuclear subs. And that query was turned over to the FBI. Suppose in the end you made a deal with the FBI undercover took some crypto and gave them a few packages of fictional material. HAVE YOU COMMITTED A CRIME? Selling fiction is not illegal. The next step up would be selling restricted data, such as a speed test of a nuclear sub. That would be a crime if sold to a foreign gov based on the 1954 ACT. But is selling it to the FBI a crime? The Crime is a conspiracy to communicate restrictive data whether you succeed or not. That was accomplished in the first teaser letters that were given to the FBI. That was the elaborate cat-and-mouse game to see if the couple was selling fiction or restrictive data. Sorry, it is not much of a crime. It is thin.

    Compare that to Trump's taking Top Secret, and Secret, and Classified material out the door of the White House and lying by saying all documents had been returned. The FBI then finds documents at Mar-o-Lago. In the Trump case you have a partisan Federal District judge attempting to block the Federal and FBI investigation and in West Virginia, you have a District Judge blocking plea deals by Prosecutors and Attorneys in order to exact more punishment. Both Judges are women with very thin resumes.

    As an aside, do I think Trump will be indicted? No. He should be but Garland and Biden expressed long ago this royal fiction that you can't prosecute a standing or former President. It is a good ole boy's club kind of view. Garland has been scrambling and even walked the idea of a special prosecutor, which is insanity and a clear attempt to push this away from his desk. If Trump announces a run for the Presidency then Garland will withhold prosecution in order not to appear biased in an election. It was the same excuse used to stall an indictment before the Midterm elections.

    I noticed Trumpers take the hardline with Assange and Snowden and likely this couple but want to treat Trump with kid gloves. I assure you the crimes of Trump are far greater than Assange, Snowden, and this couple. It is this kind of tenor that makes justice in the USA almost impossible. The UK unlike the USA, has extremely well-trained judges. In the US it is the failures at the practice of law that end up as judges and they function as political hacks.

    One thing is certain... the more the Gov tries to gin up Fear, the higher the price on the open market. This couple were just flunkies that didn't know what they were doing.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Show sentence to gin up public FEAR

      Confidential is still not to be released outside government without permission. Leaking a bit of it might not get you into that much hot water. Selling lots of it, on the other hand...

      One of the things Guy Burgess (Cambridge spy ring) tried to do when at the BBC in the 1940s was to get official access to confidential Foreign Office telegrams. Nothing secret mind, just confidential stuff to make the BBC's foreign reporting better informed.

      And of course because the KGB had asked him to leak it all to them. Not that the information would be all that useful individually. But some of these might be enciphered on the same systems as the secret stuff from embassies. And that would give the Soviets a crib in order to aid in their attempts to break British codes. As well as being extra information to plug into radio traffic analysis (sometimes a very powerful intelligence tool even if you can't decipher the messages) and increase the size and scope of their overall intelligence picture. Who in an embassy is talking about what also tells you what they're interested in, and what they're trying to find out. Plus what they might already know.

      He was also the founding producer of 'The Week in Westminster'. The longest running program about politics in the world.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Show sentence to gin up public FEAR

      "I suspect this couple will spend no more than five years in prison."

      Considering the FBI had enough to arrest/charge/go to court with the evidence passed to them from Brazil right at the start, I wonder what the sentence would have been then, rather than spending probably $millions on a two year honeypot sting getting the offenders in deeper and deeper?

      It almost sounds as if instead of some minor FBI official getting a couple of brownie points, a higher up saw an expensive way of grabbing many brownie points for him/her self.

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