FBI stings monero chasing couple for selling secrets of nuke powered subs


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TL;DR Breakdown

  • FBI arrested the couple in an undercover operation. The couple, a Naval engineer, had been trying to sell classified info on US warship.
  • The pair had insisted on payments in Monero (XMR), citing privacy. In total, they received XMR worth $100,000 for leaking classified info to a covert agent.

The FBI has arrested a couple who’ve been engaging in espionage. The man, Jonathan Toebbe, and his spouse had attempted trading classified information for crypto.

The classified information was on the design of nuclear-powered submarines. Until their arrests by the FBI, Jonathan and Diana Toebbe believed they were dealing with an agent for a foreign nation. This ‘foreign agent’ was, in fact, an undercover officer from the bureau.

According to the Department of Justice (DOJ), the couple had asked for payment in Monero (XMR). Jonathan had stressed XMR, pointing to the dangers of Bitcoin(BTC) and other cryptos. The nuclear engineer told the agent that the former gave them excellent cover.

Jonathan is a high-ranking officer working with the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program with a national security clearance courtesy of the Department of Defense. The clearance enables him to access restricted data.

The FBI says the couple is facing charges for Violating the Atomic Energy Act. US Attorney General Merrick Garland confirms that they’ll undergo a trial for transmitting information on the subs.

FBI arrested them at a dead drop

The Toebbes received three payments through an XMR address they’d given the agent. In total, they received $ 100,000 for leaking sensitive information on the subs. 

The first transaction was in West Virginia. In that June exchange, the agent sent them XMR worth $ 10,000. This payment was a “good faith” gesture. The pair would soon receive a second payment in XMR totaling $ 20,000. That was after they’d delivered an SD with classified info on the subs’ reactors.

In August, the Toebbes received the third and final payment. This payment is the largest and came to XMR worth $70,000. That payment was for them delivering a second SD card carrying more secrets on the vessels.

The DOJ says the FBI arrested them on 9th October. Jonathan had just placed a third SD containing damming leaks on the warships. The arrests happened during a dead drop at a different spot in West Virginia.

Criminals are increasingly turning to Monero

A group of developers is behind the creation of XMR. It debuted in 2014, focusing on the privacy and anonymity of transactions. 

XMR runs on an independent blockchain that masks details of a transaction. These details include the identities of the transacting parties. Additionally, this privacy token hides the transaction amounts.

Owing to its anonymity features, XMR has become the go-to crypto for shady transactions. Its security features make it difficult to track. Today, criminals have found it convenient to carry out many illicit payments, including ransomware attacks. 

XMR has continued to make the wrong headlines for its usage. It was at the center of the Colonial Pipeline ransomware saga. Again, it was popular among AlphaBay users before it folded up in 2017.

You can easily track other cryptos, including BTC. These operate on public blockchains revealing the parties and amounts to a transaction. That said, BTC still leads in ransomware payments.

For all of its privacy and anonymity, XMR has a soft Underbelly. It is highly illiquid, meaning that it’s challenging to transact in. Besides, its dubious reputation opens it up to government regulation.

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Edith Muthoni

Edith is an investment writer, trader, and personal finance coach specializing in investments advice around the fintech niche. Her fields of expertise include stocks, cryptocurrencies, blockchain, and cryptocurrency investments.

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