BALTIMORE — A pair have been federally charged for conspiring to damage multiple U.S. energy facilities.
Federal Prosecutors say Sarah Beth Clendaniel and Brandon Clint Russell, an alleged violent extremist from Orlando, Florida, plotted to target electrical substations in the Baltimore-area in Maryland all at once, in an attempt to "completely destroy [the] whole City."
According to charging documents the attacks were planned to happen "when there is greatest strain on the grid," like "when everyone is using electricity to either heat or cool their homes."
Russell also allegedly posted links to open source maps showing the targeted substations located in multiple Maryland localities including Baltimore City, Norrisville, Perry Hall, and Reisterstown.
“This planned attack threatened lives and would have left thousands of Marylanders in the cold and dark,” said Maryland U.S. Attorney Erek L. Barron. “We are united and committed to using every legal means necessary to disrupt violence, including hate-fueled attacks.”
The FBI says Clendaniel and Russell had been associating since at least 2018. They apparently communicated about their intentions via encrypted messaging under various aliases.
Some of those conversations were intercepted by federal investigators.
Both Clendaniel and Russell have criminal histories, according to court papers.
During one recorded call Clendaniel disclosed she'd previously been convicted of robbing a convenience store with a machete.
Russell meanwhile started his own National Socialist Group that reportedly promotes racially or ethnically motivated violence.
Back in May of 2017 Russell's former roommate in Florida murdered two other people they shared a home with.
The gunman told authorities that he and the two people he killed had belonged to Russell's group.
At the time the shooter had reportedly converted to Islam, which he claimed the others bullied him for leading up to their murder.
Exelon and Baltimore Gas and Electric released a statement following the indictments being announced which said:
"The Federal Bureau of Investigation has notified Exelon and BGE that it has disrupted a plot to target several BGE electric substations with gunfire. We are working closely with the FBI and state and local law enforcement as they continue their investigation, and we are thankful for their vigilance and the precautions taken to protect the electric grid for our customers and employees."
According to the company, there was no service disruptions or damage to any substations. Exelon added there are no other currently known threats to their facilities.
"Law enforcement acted before the perpetrators were able to carry out their plan, and there was no damage to any of the substations, nor was any service disrupted. The substations are not believed to have been targeted out of any connection to BGE or Exelon, or because of any particular vulnerability."
Clendaniel was scheduled for an initial court appearance in Baltimore on Monday at 2pm local time.
This story was originally published by WMAR in Baltimore, Maryland.