A nuclear engineer and his wife have been arrested for attempting to pass important information to a foreign state for payment in Monero.
The story is reported in a West Virginia court document.
The espionage story
The story concerns a US Navy employee who allegedly passed confidential data and communications to the government of an unspecified foreign nation with the assistance of his wife.
The story was discovered in December 2020, but dates back to April, when an FBI undercover agent contacted the government of the foreign country in question. That’s how he discovered a package from the United States with a request to establish a secret relationship to transmit classified documents to the intelligence of the remaining unnamed nation.
The undercover agent began a correspondence with the sender of the information, who was hiding under the pseudonym Alice. When asked for a meeting to exchange information, the person eventually arrested demanded $100,000 in Monero. The documents were allegedly provided via cloud storage.
The FBI in disguise actually paid a $10,000 tranche in Monero. This was followed by correspondence and moves to identify who “Alice” was.
In June, the mystery was unravelled: the man in question, who was trying to resell classified information, was a government-employed nuclear engineer with the United States Navy.
After the first delivery of information, in which the nuclear engineer’s wife had also participated, the FBI paid an additional $20,000 in Monero, to a different address.
The information contained on an encrypted SD card, which the FBI then decrypted, contained military material related in particular to submarine reactors.
Following further exchanges of material, the FBI paid another USD 70,000 in Monero to “Alice”.
In return, the FBI obtained material (which would have been destined for a foreign government) on Virginia-class submarines, i.e. nuclear missiles equipped with the most advanced technological systems.
Each one costs $3 billion.
These are the reasons why the nuclear engineer and his wife (always present at every delivery) were arrested.
Why the nuclear engineer wanted Monero
In the crypto landscape, Bitcoin is not as anonymous as it is often portrayed. The story of the Twitter hack is illustrative in this respect. The three guys who organized the scam and obtained over $100,000 in Bitcoin were soon tracked down.
This is because all Bitcoin transactions are recorded on the blockchain and if those transactions go through centralized exchanges, game over.
Monero, on the other hand, has a technological structure that keeps the address and amount of the transaction hidden. For this reason, it has earned the label of privacy coin. It is no coincidence that it is particularly used on the dark web and by cybercrime.
What betrayed the nuclear engineer in this case was not the Monero payments, but the conversation intercepted by the FBI. The payment system would have guaranteed their anonymity. But evidently, everything else went wrong.