A woman who allegedly told an FBI informant that taking out electricity substations around Baltimore "would completely destroy this whole city" is one of two people charged with conspiring to destroy an energy facility. Sarah Clendaniel, 34, and Brandon Russell, a 27-year-old neo-Nazi leader released from prison in 2021, allegedly got in touch with each other while serving time in separate facilities, the Washington Post reports. At a news conference Monday, US Attorney of Maryland Erek Barron said the suspects "conspired and took steps to shoot multiple electrical substations," per CNN.
When they began talking to each other, Russell, founder of a neo-Nazi group called the Atomwaffen, was in federal custody for possessing bombmaking materials and Clendaniel was serving time in a Maryland facility for robbing convenience stores with a machete, the Post reports. Both suspects are still on probation. After the indictments were announced, energy companies Exelon and BGE said the FBI told them they had "disrupted a plot to target several BGE electric substations with gunfire," WMAR reports. The companies said there was no damage to facilities or interruptions to service.
Prosecutors say Russell suggested targeting transformers because they are "custom made and could take almost a year to replace"—and said an attack would be most effective after a winter storm. Both suspects could face up to 20 years in prison if found guilty. Attacks on power infrastructure in states including North Carolina are still being investigated. "The utility sector has a real problem on its hands," former DHS Assistant Secretary Brian Harrell tells Fox. "Power stations are an attractive target and domestic terror groups know that destroying this infrastructure can have a crippling effect on industry, citizens, and local governments." (Read more domestic terrorism stories.)