Neo-Nazi and Girlfriend Arrested Over Alleged Plot to Destroy Maryland Power Grids

A man who founded the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen and his girlfriend were taken into custody for allegedly planning to attack power grids around Baltimore.

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A couple was arrested in separate states last week over an alleged plot to attack five power grids around Baltimore and subsequently cripple the city. 

Brandon Russell, 27, and Sarah Clendaniel, 34, have been charged with conspiring to destroy an energy facility and face up to 20 years in prison if convicted. According to court documents obtained by the Washington Post, Clendaniel spoke with a federal informant about their scheme, detailing how “there was a ‘ring’ around Baltimore and if they hit a number of them all in the same day, they ‘would completely destroy this whole city.’” 

Prosecutors said the two devised the plan by referencing open source information on the national infrastructure grid, and believed that if these five electrical substations were destroyed on the same day, it would result in a “cascading failure” in the system. 

“The accused were not just talking, but taking steps to fulfill their threats and further their extremist goals,” said Thomas J. Sobocinski, the special agent in charge of Baltimore’s FBI field office, adding their extremist views were “racially or ethnically motivated.” 

Russell and Clendaniel met while serving time behind bars for their respective charges in different prisons. He had been charged with possession of an unregistered destructive device and improper storage of explosive materials, while she was in prison for robbing convenience stores with a machete. 

Russell, who is the founder of the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen, started speaking with the informant prior to his August 2021 release in which he was placed on probation. However, discussions of their power grid scheme didn’t start until last summer. Clendaniel believed their attack “would probably permanently completely lay this city to waste if we could do that successfully.”

Clendaniel revealed to the informant that she expected to die from kidney disease in the next few months, and wanted to “accomplish something worthwhile” in her remaining time on Earth.

Similar attacks centered around power grids occurred in North Carolina and Oregon. Sobocinski does not suspect a link between these two individuals and those incidents.

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