Two men were charged on Tuesday in connection with attacks on four power substations in Washington State on Dec. 25 that left thousands without power, a crime that the authorities said had been intended as a ruse so that the men could burglarize a local business.
The men, Matthew Greenwood, 32, and Jeremy Crahan, 40, of Puyallup, Wash., were arrested on Dec. 31 after an investigation led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Both were charged on Tuesday with conspiracy to damage energy facilities and possession of an unregistered firearm, the Justice Department said.
After he was arrested, Mr. Greenwood told law enforcement officials that he and Mr. Crahan had been planning to disrupt power in the area to commit a burglary, according to the U.S. attorney’s office for the Western District of Washington. Mr. Greenwood said that he and Mr. Crahan broke into the four substations by using bolt cutters. The men caused the outages using various methods, including manipulating breakers and tampering with switches, according to court documents.
After power in the area was disrupted, Mr. Greenwood and Mr. Crahan went to a local business, drilled out a lock and stole an unspecified amount from a cash register, court documents said.
If convicted, Mr. Crahan and Mr. Greenwood could face up to 20 years in prison for the attacks on the substations, and up to 10 years in prison for having an unregistered firearm. It was unclear whether they had lawyers.
The attacks to the Washington substations came a few weeks after two substations in North Carolina were damaged by gunfire in what officials described as an “intentional” attack. The North Carolina substation attacks renewed concerns that extremist groups could target power grids, and prompted federal regulators to call for a review of security standards for the county’s power grid.
“We have seen attacks such as these increase in Western Washington and throughout the country and must treat each incident seriously,” Nicholas Brown, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Washington, said in a statement on Tuesday. “The outages on Christmas left thousands in the dark and cold and put some who need power for medical devices at extreme risk.”
The federal prosecutor’s office said that Mr. Greenwood and Mr. Crahan were identified as a possible suspects through phone records. At one substation, Tacoma Power captured an image of a man and another image of a truck that was believed to be connected to the attack, the U.S. attorney’s office said.
Law enforcement officers executed a search warrant on Dec. 31, and found Mr. Greenwood inside a fifth-wheel trailer outside a home, according to court documents. Inside the trailer, law enforcement officers found a short-barreled rifle, with what appeared to be a homemade silencer attached to the firearm, and a short-barreled shotgun, court documents showed.
When he was found, Mr. Greenwood was wearing clothing that partly matched clothing seen in surveillance images captured at the time of one of the substations was attacked, and officers found other clothing that appeared to match what was captured by surveillance cameras during the attacks, according to court documents. After Mr. Greenwood was detained, Mr. Crahan was detained at a nearby home.
Two of the substations that were targeted are operated by Tacoma Power, and the damage at those stations is estimated to cost at least $3 million, the U.S. attorney’s office said. Damage at the two those substations will take up to 36 months to repair, requiring the power company to use mobile transformers at each facility, court documents said. The extent of the damage at the two other substations was unclear.