Officers surround Orlando home of alleged neo-Nazi suspected in plot to attack Baltimore power grid

ORLANDO, Fla. — Clarence Sistak spent most of Friday afternoon wondering what the black car with tinted windows was doing outside his neighbor’s home.


Through his security cameras, he watched as six or seven other unmarked cars pulled up around dinner time. Armed officers got out and entered the neighbor’s home.

“They were there for two or three hours and they filled a van full of stuff,” Sistak said. “Eventually, they left.”

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The neighborhood collectively concluded it was a drug raid.

On Monday, Sistak’s jaw almost hit the floor when federal prosecutors announced his neighbor, 27-year-old Brandon Russell, and Maryland resident Sarah Beth Clendaniel were arrested and charged for plotting to bring down the Baltimore, MD power grid by attacking several electrical substations almost simultaneously.

Investigators said Russell, a known neo-Nazi leader, had been planning the attack since at least June. They said he posted links to open-source maps, discussed various ways of attacking the poorly-defended structures and described his hopes that his attack would cause a “cascading failure” to further his racially-motivated goals.

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Putting holes in transformers is “The greatest thing somebody can do,” Russell allegedly wrote.

According to prosecutors, Clendaniel said they “would completely destroy this whole city.”

Court records show Russell was previously imprisoned upon the discovery of bomb-making materials inside his home but was released in 2017.

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If he is convicted on his new charges, he and Clendaniel could each face 20 years in prison.

The vulnerabilities of power substations have been known to power companies, government leaders and extremists for years. While companies have made efforts to add redundancy to the grid recently in the event one substation is attacked, extremists have lately circled around the idea of attacking multiple to cause long-term headaches and, in turn, anarchy.

“Their agenda is to create chaos… which will result in mass violence,” UCF counterterrorism expert Dr. Ted Reynolds said. “We don’t think about the fact that there are over 150,000 people across the country that are on life support systems every day. So you shut off part of a power grid, somebody is going to die.”

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