2 Arrested in Alleged 'Racially Motivated' Plot to Attack Maryland Power Grid

Brandon Russell and Sarah Clendaniel were taken into custody on charges of conspiring to destroy an energy facility in Baltimore, Md., reports say

Two people, including a suspected Neo-Nazi leader, were arrested for allegedly planning to attack the Maryland power grid in what authorities describe as a "racially motivated" plot, according to multiple reports.

According to The Washington Post, Brandon Russell and Sarah Clendaniel were taken into custody on charges of conspiring to destroy an energy facility in Baltimore, Md.

It was unclear if the pair have retained attorneys or entered pleas to the charges against them.

Citing court records, the Post reports Clendaniel, 34, and Russell, 27, met while previously imprisoned at different facilities. At the time of their most recent arrests, both were on probation.

Brandon Russell, Sarah Clendaniel
Brandon Russell and Sarah Clendaniel. Pinellas County Sheriff's Office; Maryland State Police

"If we can pull off what I'm hoping … this would be legendary," Clendaniel allegedly told a federal informant, the Post reports, citing court records. The same informant was also allegedly in contact with Russell and having similar conversations.

According to the outlet, the pair intended to launch attacks on five power substations in the Baltimore area in what Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Sobocinski of the FBI Baltimore Field Office called a "racially or ethnically motivated" scheme.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 62 percent of Baltimore's population is Black.

"The accused were not just talking but taking steps to fulfill their threats and further their extremist goals," Sobocinski claimed, according to WBFF-TV.

"Russell provided instructions and location information. He described attacking the power transformers as the 'greatest thing somebody can do,'" Sobocinski alleged, per the Post. "In her own words, Clendaniel said she was determined to do this. She added, 'It would lay this city to waste.'"

NBC News reports Russell is a founder of the Neo-Nazi hate group Atomwaffen Division.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, AWD is a "series of terror cells that work toward civilizational collapse." Its followers "fetishize violence as the only vehicle for apocalyptic, racial cleansing."

The proposed Maryland power grid attack comes just over a month after authorities announced two Washington men — Matthew Greenwood and Jeremy Crahan — were charged with conspiracy to damage energy facilities, in addition to possession of an unregistered firearm.

According to a news release, Greenwood, 32, and Crahan, 40, allegedly caused $3 million worth of damage to four Puyallup, Wash., substations over the Christmas holiday, leaving thousands without electricity.

The pair were ordered held without bail, according to KIRO News Radio.

It was unclear if they retained attorneys to comment on their behalf or if they entered pleas to the charges.

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In Moore County, N.C., in early December 2022, a similar attack against two power substations also affected several thousand residents.

At the time, officials declared a countywide state of emergency, after millions of dollars' worth of equipment was intentionally damaged.

"The person or persons who did this knew what they were doing," Sheriff Ronnie Fields told reporters.

"It was targeted, it wasn't random," he said.

According to CNN, in December, authorities were considering two possible extremist motives in the North Carolina incident: the encouragement of attacks on critical infrastructure circulating in online groups, and the social media-circulated rumor that the attack was an attempt to stop a local drag show from happening that evening.

In a statement to PEOPLE on Monday, the Moore County sheriff's office said, "The Sheriff's office is working daily on this case and will not stop until we have answers. We have no names or motives at this time."

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