The FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office officials in Baltimore announced they had arrested two individuals, a man and a woman, with extremist views who were allegedly attempting to attack the power grid in Maryland.

FBI officials told reporters they believe this was a "real threat" that had been thwarted.

Sarah Beth Clendaniel, 34, of Catonsville, Maryland, and Brandon Clint Russell, 27, of Orlando, Florida, are charged through a federal criminal complaint with conspiracy to destroy an energy facility, Erek L. Barron, U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland, and Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Sobocinski, of the FBI Baltimore Field Office, announced Monday. 


Clendaniel spoke to an FBI informant about her plan just last week, according to authorities. Russell is an alleged neo-Nazi figure who authorities say posted locations of substations.

Clendaniel allegedly told an FBI confidential source that she planned to target five substations including in Norrisville, Reisterstown and Perry Hall, according to an affidavit by Special Agent Patrick W. Straub, of the Joint Terrorism Task Force ("JTTF") in the FBI Baltimore Division. 

FBI photo of maryland substation attack suspect

A woman believed to be Clendaniel is seen wearing tactical gear containing a swastika, holding a rifle and with a pistol in a drop holster on her left leg, according to charging documents.  (FBI)

If they hit a number of them all in the same day, they "would completely destroy this whole city," and that a "good four or five shots through the center of them … should make that happen," Clendaniel allegedly said. She further added, "[i]t would probably permanently completely lay this city to waste if we could do that successfully."

The affidavit reveals the two defendants were in separate prisons for past crimes and communicated online. In messages, Clendaniel allegedly referenced Unabomber Ted Kaczynski and Hitler. She was in a Maryland prison for robbing convenience stores with a machete. Russell was in prison for holding bomb making materials. 

Mugshot of a woman suspected of shooting substations in Baltimore, MD.

Sarah Clendaniel, 34, is one of two people suspected of planning to attack five substations in Maryland. She is seen here in a mugshot from a 2016 arrest.  (Maryland State Police)

"This planned attack threatened lives and would have left thousands of Marylanders in the cold and dark," Barron said in a statement. "We are united and committed to using every legal means necessary to disrupt violence, including hate-fueled attacks."

"The threat posed by domestic violent extremists is evolving and persistent," Sobocinski said. "The FBI will continue to work closely with our law enforcement and private sector partners to identify and disrupt any potential threat to the safety of our citizens."

Sarah Beth Clendaniel seen next to another individual with a rifle

Sarah Beth Clendaniel is seen in another photo included in the affidavit by Special Agent Patrick W. Straub, of the Joint Terrorism Task Force ("JTTF") in the FBI Baltimore Division.  (FBI)

"The accused were not just talking but taking steps to fulfill their threats and further their extremist goals. Russell provided instructions and location information," Sobocinski added at a press briefing on Monday. "He described attacking the power transformers as the greatest thing somebody can do." 

This plot is not related to but comes on the heels of several power grid attacks in North Carolina, Washington, and Oregon late last year. 

As alleged in the affidavit, Russell conspired to carry out attacks against critical infrastructure, specifically electrical substations, in furtherance of Russell’s "racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist beliefs" from at least June 2022 to the present.   

Russell allegedly posted links to open-source maps of infrastructure, which included the locations of electrical substations, and he described how a small number of attacks on substations could cause a "cascading failure," according to court documents. Russell also allegedly discussed maximizing the impact of the planned attack by hitting multiple substations at one time.

Clendaniel, in collaborating on a plan to carry out the attacks, conspired to secure a weapon and identified five substations she planned to target, according to court documents. 

maryland substation attack equipment

A photo of equipment included in the FBI affidavit outlining allegations against Sarah Beth Clendaniel, of Catonsville, Maryland, and Brandon Clint Russell, of Orlando, Florida. Both are charged with conspiracy to destroy an energy facility. (FBI)

If convicted, Russell and Clendaniel each face a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for conspiracy to damage an energy facility, prosecutors said. 

Clendaniel is scheduled to make an initial court appearance at 2:00 p.m. ET Monday in the U.S. District Court in Baltimore before U.S. Magistrate Judge Brendan Hurson. Russell will have his initial appearance at 1:30 p.m. ET in U.S. District Court in Orlando, Florida.

Exelon released a statement and announced power grid was not disrupted. 

"We are thankful for their vigilance and the precautions taken to protect the electric grid for our customers and employees," Exelon said in a statement. "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 utility sector has a real problem on its hands. 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," former Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Brian Harrell, who was appointed in 2018 by former President Donald Trump, told Fox News Digital Monday. "Attacker(s) undoubtedly understand what to shoot at and what assets are the most critical in a substation. It's difficult to protect all energy assets. This would have an enormous price tag that utility customers would have to pay." 

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.