HIGH POINT, N.C. (WGHP) — At least two groups of men with neo-Nazi ties have been charged or convicted in connection to plans to attack power substations, and some of those men have ties to North Carolina.
The plots were uncovered in 2020 and 2021, and covered numerous states.
Three men pleaded guilty to a 2021 plot in February of 2022, and several men indicted by the Eastern District of North Carolina in a 2020 plot are awaiting trial. Both of these cases involved groups planning attacks on substations in different states, primarily using high-powered automatic weapons.
Other than shared white supremacist ideology, it does not seem that the cases are directly connected. The planning in both of them also shares similarities with the attack in Moore County, although no group has taken responsibility for the shooting of the two substations in early December.
United States of America V. Collins, Kryscuk, Duncan, Maurino
In October of 2020, Liam Collins, Paul Kryscuk and Jordan Duncan were charged with conspiracy to unlawfully manufacture, possess and distribute various weapons and weapon accessories. At the time of their arrest, the three men lived in Boise, Idaho. All of the charges came from the Eastern District of North Carolina. Collins and Duncan were both Marines stationed at Camp Lejeune. Collins was originally from New Jersey, while Duncan was from North Carolina.
In November 2020, Justin Wade Hermanson, a North Carolina man who was in the same Marine unit as Collins at Camp Lejeune, was charged with one count of conspiracy to manufacture firearms and ship interstate. After two superseding indictments, he pleaded guilty on March 8, 2022.
In June of 2021, Joseph Maurino, a New Jersey National Guardsman, was also indicted, accused of supplying untraceable guns to the other men.
In August 2021, Kryscuk, Collins, Duncan and Maurino received a third superseding indictment. They were charged with conspiracy to damage property of a United States energy facility.
The indictment alleges that the four men researched and discussed at length a previous attack on power infrastructure by an unknown group, using assault-style rifles. The indictment alleges that for three years, between 2017 and 2020, Kryscuk manufactured guns and Collins, stationed at Camp Lejeune at the time, stole military gear and had them delivered to the other men. Duncan gathered “a library of information,” some military owned, about weapons, toxins and explosives.
The indictment goes into detail about how Collins and Kryscuk met on “Iron March,” a now-defunct forum for neo-Nazis to organize and recruit. They moved to encrypted messaging to talk outside of the forum, recruiting the other three accused men.
Video footage obtained show the men shooting guns, wearing AtomWaffen style-masks while giving Nazi salutes. The phrase “come home white man” is seen in the video.
Supposedly, Collins and Duncan moved from North Carolina and Texas respectively to Boise where Kryscuk relocated in 2020 in order to be closer to him.
The most recent document filed in the case against the men was a continuance, granted in early December of 2022.
United States v. Cook, Frost, Sawall
In February of 2022, three men pleaded guilty to a plot to attack power substations in multiple states.
Court documents indicate that Christopher Cook, Jonathan Frost, and Jackson Sawall pleaded guilty to a count of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists.
“These three defendants admitted to engaging in a disturbing plot, in furtherance of white supremacist ideology, to attack energy facilities in order to damage the economy and stoke division in our country,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security Matthew G. Olsen.
“These defendants conspired to use violence to sow hate, create chaos, and endanger the safety of the American people,” said U.S. Attorney Kenneth L. Parker for the Southern District of Ohio.
“The defendants in this case wanted to attack regional power substations and expected the damage would lead to economic distress and civil unrest,” said Assistant Director Timothy Langan of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division. “These individuals wanted to carry out such a plot because of their adherence to racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist views. When individuals move from espousing particular views to planning or committing acts of violence the FBI will investigate and take action to stop their plans. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to protect our communities.”
Frost and Cook met in 2019 in an online chat group. They then began recruiting people to join in their plan of attacking power infrastructure, circulating neo-Nazi books. Sawall, a friend of Cook’s, joined them in their planning.
Each of them was “assigned” a substation in different parts of the country, and they would attack those electrical substations or power grids with high-powered rifles. They discussed how this would cause enough unrest in the country incite some sort of race war or financial collapse.
Frost gave Cook and Sawall “suicide necklaces” when they met up in Columbus, Ohio. These had fentanyl in then, documents say. The men expressed a “commitment to dying in furtherance of their mission.”
While in Columbus, they graffitied a bridge at an area park with a swastika and the words “Join the Front.” Sawall took his “suicide pill” during a traffic stop and “derailed” their plans for additional vandalism and propaganda in the area.
The three have a hearing on Jan. 4, 2023 “for the purpose of providing the government and defense counsel the opportunity to present evidence and argument which would assist the court in determining the magnitude of the risk this conspiracy posed to the national power grid.”
Unsealed court documents show that in the first week of December, an emergency bond revocation was filed for Cook and Sawall, and a warrant was issued for Cook to be taken back into custody. Electronics were seized from Cook on Dec. 5.
On Dec. 3, two Duke Energy substations were attacked with high-powered rifles by unknown suspects. No group or ideology has claimed responsibility for the attack, but the Moore County Sheriff’s Office says they’ve received numerous tips as they continue to investigate.
Two neo-Nazi banners have been put up on overpasses on US 1 in Moore County, one in the Vass area and the other in Cameron. The first was put up in the morning before Hannukah was set to start, and the second on Christmas.
The first banner included the language “bring it all down.” The Telegram channel for this neo-Nazi group, National Socialist Resistant Front, includes graphics with the same language imposed over a graphic of a power substation.
The second used the phrase “a touch of death” which doesn’t seem to have any specific Nazi ties and is the title of a pulp noir novel.
The sheriff’s office says they don’t have any indication that these incidents are connected to the power substations.
Raw Story reports, however, that documents that contained instructions on the destruction of power substations had been circulating in neo-Nazi social media spaces in the days before the Moore County attack.
“Don’t you think it’s funny that three substations got attacked after the gardens pdf was posted here a few days ago?” someone asked.
‘The Garden’ is a document that includes an analysis of a 2013 “Metcalf attack,” where a California substation was shot and damaged, which cost millions and no suspects have been arrested for.
There had been an act of vandalism on a power substation in eastern North Carolina just three weeks before the attack in Moore County, when Cartaret-Craven Electrical Cooperative equipment was intentionally damaged near Maysville, leaving 12,000 customers without power for a few hours.
Concerning social media posts and the timing of the attack coinciding with a contested drag event in Southern Pines has put the local LGBTQ+ community on edge and left the broader community uncertain while investigators work.
In late November, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security released a report warning the country that there was a heightened risk of domestic terrorism, particularly against the LGBTQ+ and Jewish communities. The warning came in the wake of threats against synagogues in New York and the mass shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs.
David Schanzer, the director of the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security at Duke University, said, “We just don’t know exactly who the perpetrators are or what their motives are. But, once we do, the label of domestic terrorism could certainly be applied here, but it just depends.”