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Neo-Nazi and girlfriend arrested for allegedly plotting attack on Maryland power grid

Mr Russell allegedly said he wanted to wait for a winter storm to attack the power grid

Graig Graziosi
Monday 06 February 2023 18:34 GMT
Related video: US energy secretary discusses power grid vulnerabilities

A Neo-Nazi leader and his girlfriend have been arrested and charged with plotting an attack on the Maryland power grid.

Brandon Russell, 27, and Sarah Clendaniel, 34, have been charged for conspiring to destroy an energy facility, and face up to 20 years in prison, according to The Washington Post.

Mr Russell met Ms Clendaniel while they two were incarcerated at different prisons. The former, the founder of the violent neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division, had been arrested for possessing bombmaking materials, and the latter had been robbing convenience stores with a machete.

In 2017, Mr Russell's roommate, another Atomwaffen member named Devon Arthurs, killed two of their other roommates. He was taken into custody and allegedly told investigators that had been planning attacks on nuclear power plants and power lines in the US.

Police responding to the scene found bombmaking materials in the house reportedly belonging to Mr Russell. He was arrested, charged, and imprisoned after he pleaded guilty to possession of an unregistered destructive device and improper storage of explosive material.

During his time in prison, he met Ms Clendaniel and was eventually released in 2021. He later met and began discussing his future ambitions with a government informant.

According to prosecutors, Mr Russell began discussing potential attacks on power infrastructure with an undercover government informant last summer while he was still on probation.

Mr Russell allegedly told the informant that they should target transformers, as they were "custom made" and would "take almost a year to replace."

Sarah Clendaniel and Brandon Russell, the founder of the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen, in mug shots (Maryland State Police / Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department)

He also said it would be best to wait for a winter storm, attacking at the moment when "most people are using max electricity."

Ms Clendaniel, who also met with the informant, was reportedly convinced she was going to die of kidney disease in the near future and wanted to carry out an attack quickly so she could "accomplish something worthwhile."

“If we can pull off what I’m hoping ... this would be legendary,” Ms Clendaniel allegedly told the informant.

She reportedly left a statement that contained references to Hitler, the Unabomber, a Norwegian mass shooter, and claimed that she would "sacrifice **everything** for my people," according to a criminal complaint reviewed by the Post.

The complaint also revealed that she was reportedly looking to purchase a new rifle after hers was confiscated after a fight with one of her neighbors. She allegedly asked the informant to obtain a rifle for her while she scoped out possible attack sites in the Baltimore area.

Baltimore Gas and Electric issued a statement in the wake of the announcement outlining its fortification efforts to protect its facilities.

“We hold the safety of our employees and the safety and security of our customers and communities as top priorities. In the last decade, we have increased our level of investment on grid hardening capital projects, and monitoring and surveillance technologies to work to prevent both physical and cyber-attacks,” the company said in the statement. “We remain focused on improving the resiliency of the grid by stocking critical back-up equipment while designing a smarter grid that isolates damage and routes power around it.”

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