MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (DC News Now) — A former Navy nuclear engineer and his wife appeared in court Tuesday to be sentenced on charges related to espionage only to have a federal judge reject the plea agreements into which prosecutors entered with them.

The agreement with Jonathan Toebbe, 43, called for him to spend between 12 and 17 years in prison. The plea agreement with his wife, Diana Toebbe, 46, included 3 years of prison time.

In rejecting the deal, Judge Gina Groh said, “This is very serious. You deserve life in prison. Usually I accept plea agreements. You were selfish, greedy, a harm to the Navy, the United States, the world. You compromised national defense, threatened critical military advantages, and years of research and development. You put the lives of 25,000 nuclear submarine sailors at risk, betrayed the trust that our Navy and nation placed in you. You did not act in the best interest of the United States.”

Investigators said they arrested Jonathan Toebbe of Annapolis, Md. on Oct. 9, 2021, after he put an SD card at a pre-arranged “dead drop” in West Virginia. At the time of his arrest, Toebbe was assigned to the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, also known as Naval Reactors. He had an active national security clearance through the Department of Defense, which gave him access to “restricted data” which has to do with design, manufacture or use of atomic weapons, or production of Special Nuclear Material (SNM), or use of SNM in the production of energy. Toebbe worked with and had access to information concerning naval nuclear propulsion including information related to military sensitive design elements, operating parameters and performance characteristics of the reactors for nuclear powered warships.

His wife, Diana, was arrested the same day. Investigators said she helped her husband to communicate restricted data to a foreign nation and that she served as a lookout while her husband serviced three “dead-drops.”

The Toebbes entered guilty pleas to charges in February 2022.

At the time of his plea, Toebbe acknowledged that in April 2020, he sent a package to a foreign government, listing a return address in Pittsburgh, Penna. It contained a sample of restricted data and instructions for establishing relationship to buy additional restricted data. Toebbe said he began corresponding via encrypted email with someone he thought was a representative of the foreign government. In reality, the person was an undercover FBI agent. Toebbe kept the correspondence going for several months. That led to an agreement to sell restricted data in exchange for thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency.

On June 8, 2021, the undercover FBI agent sent $10,000 in cryptocurrency to Toebbe as a “good faith” payment. On June 26, Toebbe placed an SD card containing military-sensitive design elements related to submarine nuclear reactors into half a peanut butter sandwich. He serviced a dead drop at a at a pre-arranged location.

After the undercover agent picked up the SD card, the agent sent Toebbe a $20,000 cryptocurrency payment. Toebbe emailed the undercover agent a decryption key for the SD card.

On Aug. 28, Toebbe made another dead drop of an SD card in eastern Virginia. In that case, Toebbe put the card in a chewing gum package. After making a payment to Toebbe of $70,000 in cryptocurrency, the FBI received a decryption key for the card which also contained restricted data related to submarine nuclear reactors.

The FBI arrested Toebbe and his wife on Oct. 9, after he placed yet another SD card at a pre-arranged “dead drop” at a second location in West Virginia.

After the rejection of the plea agreements, Groh set a date of January 17, 2023 for the Toebbes to return to court.