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Wichita Falls man sentenced to 10 years for plotting attack on data centers

Published: Oct. 4, 2021 at 4:18 PM CDT
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WICHITA FALLS, Texas (KAUZ) - A Wichita Falls man has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for plotting to blow up an Amazon data center in Virginia, federal prosecutors said.

Seth Aaron Pendley, 28, pleaded guilty to the crime on June 9, according to a statement from acting U.S. Attorney Prerak Shah of the Northern District of Texas. He was sentenced Friday.

“The Justice Department is constantly on guard for threats posed by violent domestic extremists,” said Shah. “As this case shows, radicals are lurking on the internet, looking for ways to lash out – and far too often, they move their plans off of the web and into the real world. We are indebted to the FBI employee who put his life on the line to disrupt Mr. Pendley’s plot before he could inflict real harm on data center workers, and are proud of today’s sentence.”

According to his plea documents, Pendley admitted that he planned to blow up the servers at the Amazon data center in Ashburn, Virginia, and revealed the plan last February on the Signal encrypted messaging app. He told a source who responded to his message that he hoped the attack would “kill off 70% of the internet.”

The source offered to help Pendley obtain C4 plastic explosives, then introduced him in March to an undercover FBI agent posing as a supplier of explosives. In recorded conversations, Pendley told the agent that he wanted to blow up Amazon web servers that he believed served the FBI, CIA and other federal agencies. Pendley told the agent the he hoped it would trigger a backlash from “the oligarchy” that would convince Americans to act against a “dictatorship.”

Pendley also told the agent that he had been present at the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and that although he did not enter the building, he came prepared with a sawed-off assault-style rifle that he left in his car.

On April 8, Pendley met the agent to pick up what turned out to be a decoy bomb that the agent also told him how to arm and detonate. When he loaded the decoy into his car, Pendley was arrested. A search of his home revealed the sawed-off AR-15 rifle, a pistol painted to look like a toy gun, masks, wigs, and notes and flashcards related to the planned Amazon attack.

“Seth Aaron Pendley’s sentence is an affirmation of the work the North Texas Joint Terrorism Task Force performs around the clock to disrupt threats while keeping our community safe from harm,” said FBI Dallas Special Agent in Charge Matthew J. DeSarno. “The public’s vigilance in reporting suspicious or threatening behavior is key to law enforcement’s ability to take quick action to prevent injuries and the destruction of property.”

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