Wichita Falls man tried to buy explosives from undercover FBI in plot to attack data centers
LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - A Wichita Falls man has pleaded guilty after being accused of plotting to destroy tech companies’ data centers with an explosive.
According to the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas, 28 year-old Seth Aaron Pendley was arrested in April after attempting to obtain an explosive device from an undercover FBI employee in Fort Worth.
Pendley entered his guilty plea before U.S. Magistrate Judge Hal R. Ray Jr., on Wednesday.
Pendley admitted that he disclosed his plan to blow up Amazon’s data center to a confidential human source via Signal, an encrypted messaging app, in January.
On January 8, officials say a concerned citizen contacted the FBI about alarming statements posted on a forum dedicated to organizing militia groups.
A user who went by the screenname “Dionysus” stated he was planning to “conduct a little experiment,” that he said would “draw a lot of heat” and could be “dangerous.” When another user asked what outcome Dionysus desired, he responded, “death.”
The user’s email address, which was registered to Pendley, was provided to the FBI. According to attorneys, a subsequent search of Pendley’s Facebook account showed that he had boasted about being at the U.S. Capitol on January 6.
In late February, Pendley sent a list of data center addresses and said he hoped a successful attack could “kill off about 70% of the internet.” When help was offered to obtain C4 explosives to use in the attack, Pendley responded, “F*** yeah.”
The report states Pendley showed a hand-drawn map of a data center in Virginia, featuring proposed routes in and out of the facility, later describing how he planned to disguise his car to evade detection by law enforcement.
In March, Pendley was introduced to an undercover FBI employee, who he believed to be an explosives supplier.
The report states Pendley, in recorded conversations, allegedly told the undercover employee he planned to attack web servers that he believed provided services to the FBI, CIA and other federal agencies; adding, “the main objective is to f*** up the Amazon servers.” Attorneys say he hoped to anger “the oligarchy” enough to provoke a reaction that would convince the American people to take action against what he perceived to be a “dictatorship.”
In this conversation, Pendley claimed to have been present at the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. He said that although he did not enter the building, he came prepared with a sawed off AR rifle, which he left in his car.
Pendley again met with the undercover FBI employee on April 8, to pick up what he believed to be explosive devices, that officials say were actually inert.
After the agent showed Pendley how to “arm” and “detonate” the devices, Pendley loaded them into his car. The report states he was then arrested.
In a search of his home in Wichita Falls, attorneys say an AR-15 receiver with a sawed off barrel, a pistol painted to look like a toy gun, masks, wigs and notes and flashcards related to the planned attack were found.
Pendley faces between five and 20 years in federal prison. His sentencing hearing has been set for Oct. 1 before U.S. District Judge Reed C. O’Connor.
The FBI’s Dallas Field Office, Wichita Falls Resident Agency and FBI’s North Texas Joint Terrorism Task Force conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert J. Boudreau of the Northern District of Texas is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Trial Attorney Alexandra Hughes of the National Security Division.
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