According to federal court filings, a neo-Nazi leader and a lady with whom he had a personal relationship are accused of plotting to damage energy facilities. They allegedly intended to attack electrical substations surrounding Baltimore and “totally destroy” the entire city.
The Justice Department has accused Sarah Beth Clendaniel and Brandon Clint Russell of conspiring to harm energy facilities, stating that the Maryland-centered plot was motivated by extreme ethnic or racial ideologies.
At a news conference on Monday, Tom Sobocinski, the director of the FBI’s field office in Baltimore, stated that they “conspired to inflict maximum destruction on the power grid.” “The accused were not only talking; they were also acting to carry out their threats and advance their extremist objectives.”
In Mineral Springs, near Pinehurst, North Carolina, USA, on December 6, 2022, Duke Energy technicians restore electricity to a crippled electrical substation that they claim was struck by gunfire after the Moore County Sheriff claimed that vandalism was to blame for a widespread blackout. Drone Base/Reuters
Domestic terrorist groups are targeting a weak electrical grid.
The accusations come as domestic violence experts have expressed concern about the rise in attempts by extremist groups to destroy electrical facilities.
According to the Justice Department, Clendaniel will make her first court appearance at a federal courthouse in Baltimore at 2:00 p.m. ET, and Russell will do the same at a courthouse in Florida at 1:30 p.m. ET.
The accused or their attorneys could not be reached by CNN for comment.
Clendaniel allegedly informed the FBI source in a voice-recorded discussion from last month that attacking the facilities would “totally demolish this whole city.” She and Russell allegedly emailed the source details on the facilities, and per the accusation documents, Russell also forwarded the source a YouTube link to a recent North Carolina substation attack.
Additionally, a manuscript purportedly written by Clendaniel that resembled a manifesto was seized by the FBI. She allegedly makes references to Hitler, Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, and the perpetrator of the terrorist incident in Norway in 2011.
The prosecution documents state that Russell admitted to holding neo-Nazi sentiments and had founded his own neighborhood National Socialist Group.
Authorities assert that before allegedly plotting to strike the Maryland power grid, he and his Florida companions planned to attack energy facilities there. An investigation into the 2017 murders of Russell’s roommates by another roommate turned up information about that suspected conspiracy.
A personal and online contact between Russell and Clendaniel was mentioned by law enforcement officials at a news conference on Monday, but they did not go into further detail.
The FBI’s source has been in touch with Russell, reportedly using the alias “Homunculus,” since at least June of last year, according to the Justice Department. Throughout 2022, Homunculus allegedly told the source various things regarding targeting crucial infrastructure.
Homunculus apparently told the source that “placing holes in transformers though is the finest thing anybody can do” at a moment when they were talking about Mylar balloons. He also allegedly floated additional suggestions to the source regarding targeting electrical substations.
According to the criminal documents, Clendaniel identified herself to the FBI’s confidential source last month under the usernames “Nythra88” and “Kali1889.” She allegedly told the source, when asking for assistance in procuring firearms, that she wanted “to accomplish something important” before passing away from a fatal illness.
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According to the charging documents, the source taped a nearly two-hour voice chat he had with Clendaniel on January 24 discussing the scheme. The source reportedly discussed the plans with Homunculus for Clendaniel to take part in an attack on energy infrastructure.
Five days later, in a different conversation, Clendaniel informed the source through an audio recording that the targets were buildings close to Baltimore.
More information has been added to this story.
Correction: The site of a terrorist incident that occurred in Norway in 2011 was incorrectly in an earlier version of this story.