Texas man who boasted of being on the U.S. Capitol when swarms of Trump supporters stormed the building on Jan.6 pleaded guilty on Wednesday to plotting to blow up a data center from Amazon in Virginia, prosecutors said.
The man, Seth Aaron Pendley, 28, of Wichita Falls, Texas, was arrested in April after picking up what he believed to be bombs made from C-4 plastic explosives and detonating cords from a supplier of explosives in Fort Worth, but were in fact inert objects supplied by an undercover FBI agent, prosecutors said.
In a taped conversation by an undercover agent on March 31, Mr Pendley said he had hoped to anger “the oligarchy” enough to elicit a backlash that would persuade Americans to take action against what he perceived to be. a “dictatorship,” prosecutors said. .
During that same conversation, Mr Pendley claimed to have participated in the Jan.6 attack on the United States Capitol, prosecutors said. He said that although he did not enter the building, he came prepared with a sawed-off shotgun, which he left in his car, prosecutors said.
When authorities next raided his home in Wichita Falls, they found an AR-15 receiver with a sawn-off barrel, a pistol painted to look like a toy gun, masks, wigs, notes and flashcards tied to the planned attack on Amazon’s data center in Ashburn, Virginia, about 35 miles northwest of Washington, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said a search of Mr Pendley’s Facebook account revealed that he also told an associate he was at the Capitol on January 6 and told that person that although he was not not entered the Capitol, he had taken a piece of glass from a window on the building.
In an appearance before District Judge Hal R. Ray Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas on Wednesday, Mr. Pendley pleaded guilty to a malicious attempt to destroy a building with an explosive. He faces five to 20 years in federal prison. His sentence was set for October 1.
Mr Pendley’s attorney, George Lancaster, did not immediately respond to a message Wednesday asking for comment.
“Thanks in large part to the meticulous work of the undercover FBI agents, the Justice Department was able to expose Mr Pendley’s twisted plot and apprehend the accused before he could inflict actual harm on him,” Prerak said. Shah, the acting American lawyer. the North Texas District, said in a statement. “We may never know how many technician lives were saved as a result of this operation – and we’re thankful we never had to find out.”
Federal officials said they began investigating the plot after a concerned citizen contacted the FBI on January 8 about alarming statements posted on MyMilitia.com, a forum dedicated to organizing militia groups .
A user with the screen name Dionysus wrote that he was planning to “conduct a small experiment” which he said would “attract a lot of heat” and could be “dangerous,” prosecutors said.
When another user asked what Dionysus wanted, he replied “death,” prosecutors said. A confidential source provided the FBI with the user’s email address, which was registered in Mr Pendley’s name, prosecutors said.
In court documents, Mr Pendley admitted that he disclosed his plans to blow up Amazon’s web servers to a confidential source on Signal, an encrypted messaging app, in January.
At the end of February, he sent the source a list of data center addresses and said he hoped a successful attack could “kill about 70% of the Internet,” prosecutors said.
Mr Pendley then showed the source a hand-drawn map of an Amazon data center in Ashburn which included suggested routes to and from the building.
He then described how he planned to paint his car black and change the license plate to escape detection by law enforcement, prosecutors said.
In late March, the confidential source introduced Mr Pendley to someone he claimed to be his explosives supplier, but who was, in fact, an undercover FBI employee, prosecutors said.
In taped conversations, Mr Pendley told the undercover employee that he was planning to attack web servers he said provided services to the FBI, CIA and other federal agencies, the officials said. prosecutors.
Mr Pendley said he believed the government would overreact to the attack and the response would wake up the American people how unfair the government was, prosecutors said. Mr Pendley said he was hopeful that “some of the people who are on the fence jump off the fence,” prosecutors said.