February 6, 2023, Maryland
The founder of a ‘terrorist neo-Nazi’ group was arrested over an alleged racist plot to ‘completely destroy’ the power grid in the predominantly black city of Baltimore.
Brandon Russell, 34, of Florida, was accused of conspiring to inflict ‘maximum harm’ by shooting at five substations operated by Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE), which serves 1.2 million customers in central Maryland.
His alleged co-conspirator, Sarah Beth Clendaniel, 27, of Maryland, said that striking all five, in rapid succession, with a ‘good four or five shots,’ would ‘completely destroy this whole city’ by setting off a cascade of power failures and prompting destructive civil disturbances, according to a criminal complaint filed in Maryland district court.
The pair were caught in an FBI sting, with Clendaniel describing the plot as ‘definitely doable’ to an informant.
Prosecutors obtained a photograph believed to be of Clendaniel in a death’s-head mask.
Russell is a founder of the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division (AWD) and has a long history of plots to attack US infrastructure, according to the complaint.
The FBI said it viewed the suspects as ‘racially or ethnically motivated extremists’, with Russell describing the alleged plot to target power transformers in Baltimore as ‘the greatest thing somebody can do’.
Erek Barron, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland, said in a statement that the suspects sought to ‘completely destroy’ the city of Baltimore.
A judge is expected to set a trial date in December.
In 2018, Russell was sentenced to five years in prison for having lethal bomb-making materials in his Florida apartment.
At trial, one of Russell’s roommates and a former AWD member told jurors that he intended to target a number of different locations, including a Jewish synagogue, power lines, and a nearby nuclear reactor site.
Among the propaganda seized from Russell’s apartment during the search were several books about the functioning of nuclear reactors and nuclear accidents.
Christmas Day, 2022, Washington State
Jeremy Crahan, 40, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to attack power substations in Pierce County, Washington
A series of Christmas Day attacks on four substations in Washington State left thousands of families without power.
The first attack occurred at around 5.30am when a substation was broken into about 20 miles south of Tacoma, causing a power outage.
After a second attack at a nearby substation, Tacoma Power said that more than 7,000 customers in the regions of Elk Plain and Graham were without power.
Two other substations were also broken into and vandalized in the region that day.
Two men, Matthew Greenwood, 32, and Jeremy Crahan, 40, of Puyallup, Wash were arrested on December 31 following an investigation by the FBI.
Greenwood told law enforcement officials that he and Crahan had been planning to disrupt power in the area to commit a burglary, according to the U.S. attorney’s office for the Western District of Washington.
The men caused the outages using various methods, including manipulating breakers and tampering with switches, according to court documents.
After power in the area was disrupted, Greenwood and Crahan went to a local business, drilled out a lock and stole an unspecified amount from a cash register, court documents said.
December 4, 2022, North Carolina
Two power substations in Moore County were struck by gunfire, with the resultant outage causing the death of an elderly woman and leaving 45,000 customers in the dark for several days.
Residents lost power at 7pm on the Saturday, with some not regaining it until late Wednesday.
Karin Zoanelli, 87, of Pinehurst, died as a result of a pre-existing medical condition that required her to use an oxygen concentrator, according to an autopsy report.
When her home lost power, her concentrator stopped working.
Her death was ruled as homicide by a medical examiner.
State Senator Tom McInnis described the attacks as a ‘terrible act’ that appeared to be ‘intentional, willful and malicious”.
Damage is thought to be in the millions of dollars, according to county sheriff, Ronnie Fields.
Schools were closed, showers for the public were set up, stores took only cash, restaurants gave away refrigerators full of food, and some residents stood in their front yards warming their hands over barrel fires.
No suspects have been apprehended and the motive for the attack remains unknown.
A $75,000 reward remains on offer to anyone with information that helps solve the case.
November 24, 2022, Oregon
An attack on a substation in Clackamas cost ratepayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Bonneville Power Administration was able to respond quickly and avoid power supply disruption.
March 17, 2022, Texas
A neo-Nazi affiliate was sentenced to 41 months in prison for his part in a plot to blow up law offices and power substations.
AWD affiliate Beau Daniel Merryman, 21, of Jefferson, Texas, pleaded guilty to distributing information related to constructing explosive devices to target critical infrastructure.
Between September and October 2019, Merryman engaged in a series of online conversations with covert FBI employees, according to information presented in court.
During those conversations, Merryman provided detailed instructions on how to make multiple types of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), such as pipe bombs and pressure-cooker bombs.
Merryman also directed that the IEDs be used to target federal law enforcement and critical infrastructure, such as electrical substations, the US Attorney’s office said.
February 23, 2022, Ohio
Jackson Matthew Sawall of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, was convicted of plotting attacks on power grids across the country
Three white supremacists were convicted of plotting attacks on power grids across the US.
Christopher Cook, 20, Jonathan Frost, 24, and Matthew Sawall, 22, each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists.
The trio had planned to attack several power grid substations throughout the US in order to ‘damage the economy and stoke division in our country’, officials said.
Using a private chat group, the three co-conspirators distributed information about attacking a grid substation, sharing white supremacist propaganda, a Department of Energy report about grid stations, and a list of substations throughout the US.
Each member of the group would be responsible for an attack on a regional power grid center, which they believed would trigger mass unrest in the US, generate an economic collapse, and plunge the country into a race war.
In February 2020, the co-conspirators met in Columbus, Ohio, to discuss their plot, according to court documents.
Frost provided Cook with an AR-47 and the two took the rifle to a shooting range to train.
Weeks after their arrest, the three men pleaded guilty in late February 2022.
October 20, 2020, North Carolina
Three alleged neo-Nazis were charged with a conspiracy to attack US energy infrastructure in a plot hatched at a military camp in North Carolina.
Liam Collins, Paul Kryscuk and Jordan Duncan allegedly researched a previous attack on power infrastructure using assault-style rifles.
The indictment alleges that for three years, between 2017 and 2020, Kryscuk manufactured guns and Collins, stationed at Camp Lejeune at the time, stole military gear and had them delivered to the other men.
Duncan allegedly gathered ‘a library of information,’ some military-owned, about weapons, toxins and explosives.
Documents also go into detail about how Collins and Kryscuk met on ‘Iron March,’ a now-defunct forum for neo-Nazis to organize and recruit.
Video footage obtained shows the men shooting guns, wearing ‘AtomWaffen-masks’ while giving Nazi salutes, according to court documents.
Collins pled guilty last week to interstate transportation of an unregistered firearm, but not guilty to a charge of destruction of an energy facility.
Jordan Duncan is attempting to have his indictments dropped, arguing that they are unconstitutional.
January 20, 2019, Virginia
A plot concocted by three neo-Nazis at a gun rally in Richmond, Virginia, threatened to ‘kick off the economic collapse’ of the US by taking out critical infrastructure across the country.
Brian Mark Lemley, Jr., Patrik Jordan Matthews, and William Garfield Bilbrough IV; members of neo-Nazi group, The Base, and engaged in a series of tactical exercises with firearms to prepare themselves for a series of attacks to destabilize the US, prosecutors said.
Bilbrough was convicted of helping ex-Canadian Armed Forces reservist Patrik Jordan Mathews (left and right) enter the US illegally in 2019. Mathews fled Canada after a Winnipeg Free Press reporter exposed him as a member of The Base in an August 2019 article
In 2019, while a major anti-gun control rally was taking place in Richmond, Virginia, the trio discussed a plot to ‘create…some instability’ by ‘derail[ing] some rail lines,’ ‘shut[ting] down the highways’ and ‘get to every single thing you can take out—power lines, everything,’ with the goal of ‘kick[ing] off the economic collapse of the U.S. within a week’.
After the November 2019 state elections both chambers of the Virginia legislature and the Governor were controlled by elected representatives from the Democratic Party.
The defendants believed that the Democrats intended to use their power to pass a variety of gun control and other legislation anathema to the white nationalist cause.
Lemley and Matthews were arrested in Delaware in January 2020 and were each later sentenced to nine years in federal prison.
Bilbrough pleaded guilty to conspiring to transport an alien and to transporting the alien in December 2020 and jailed for five years.
Since 2018, The Base has built a coalition of white supremacist members within the United States and abroad through, among other things, online chat rooms, in-person meetings, propaganda, and military-style training.
The Base’s accounts on social media repeatedly posted content promoting terrorism, lone-wolf attacks, and a white ethno-state.