FORT WORTH, Texas — A Wichita Falls man who allegedly planned to blow up a data center in Virginia has been arrested, acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Prerak Shah announced Friday.
Seth Aaron Pendley, 28, was arrested Thursday after he tried to obtain an explosive device from an undercover FBI employee in Fort Worth, according to officials.
According to a federal criminal complaint, officials began investigating Pendley after a concerned person contacted the FBI on Jan. 8 about alarming statements on a forum dedicated to organizing militia groups.
Federal officials said a user who went by the screenname “Dionysus” said he was planning to “conduct a little experiment,” which he said would, “draw a lot of heat and could be dangerous.” When another user asked what outcome Dionysus desired, he responded, “death.”
A confidential source was able to provide the FBI with the email address of "Dionysus," which was registered to Pendley, according to court documents.
“We are indebted to the concerned citizen who came forward to report the defendant’s alarming online rhetoric. In flagging his posts to the FBI, this individual may have saved the lives of a number of tech workers,” said Shah.
Federal officials also checked Pendley's Facebook account in which they said showed he had boasted about being at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
According to private messages sent to his friends, Pendley allegedly said he didn't enter the Capitol building, but he did reach the "platform." That's where he said he swiped a piece of glass from a broken window and interacted with police. Pendley told his friends he brought a sawed-off AR rifle to D.C. but left the weapon in his car, according to officials.
Later that month, federal officials said Pendley started using an encrypted messaging app to communicate with a confidential person. That person told the FBI that Pendley allegedly stated he planned to use C-4 plastic explosives to attack a prominent tech company’s data centers in an attempt to “kill off about 70% of the internet," according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
About two months later, on March 31, that person introduced Pendley to a person who he claimed was his explosives supplier but the man was actually an undercover FBI employee, officials said.
According to federal officials, Pendley allegedly told the undercover employee in recorded conversations, that he planned to attack web servers he believed provided services to the FBI, CIA, and other federal agencies. He then said he hoped to bring down “the oligarchy” currently in power in the United States.
About a week later, on April 8, Pendley met with the undercover FBI employee again and to pick up what he thought were explosive devices. However, the undercover agent said he gave Pendley inert devices.
After the agent showed Pendley how to arm and detonate the devices, the defendant loaded them into his car. That's when Pendley was arrested by FBI agents who were monitoring the situation, authorities said.
“The FBI’s highest priority is ensuring public safety and we thoroughly investigate all credible threats,” said FBI Dallas Special Agent in Charge Matthew J. DeSarno.
Pendley has been charged with a malicious attempt to destroy a building with an explosive. He made his initial appearance in federal court Friday morning, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
If Pendley is convicted, he faces up to 20 years in federal prison, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
"We continually ask the public to report suspicious or threatening behavior to law enforcement, and in this instance, that vigilance may have prevented injuries and the destruction of property," DeSarno said.