Combined $75,000 reward offered in Moore County substation attacks

Other NC substation attacks preceded Moore County including the states of Florida, Oregon, and Washington.

RALEIGH — A reward of up to $75,000 is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the attacks on the power substations in Moore County.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper issued a press release on Dec. 7 announcing that the state, Moore County and Duke Energy were each offering monetary awards of $25,000 each in the substation attack cases.

“An attack on our critical infrastructure will not be tolerated,” Cooper said in the release. “I appreciate the coordinated efforts of law enforcement to leave no stone unturned in finding the criminals who did this and I thank Moore County and Duke Energy for matching the state’s reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.”

On its “Most Wanted” page, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) also has a flier on the attacks.

“On the evening of December 3, 2022, unknown suspect(s) fired multiple shots at two Duke Energy Substations in Moore County, North Carolina. The substations are located approximately 10 miles apart in West End and Carthage, North Carolina,” the FBI’s website reads. “The damage led to a massive power outage of approximately 45,000 customers. The repair process will take days, therefore a state of emergency was declared in Moore County to provide resources to citizens who remain without power.”

Anyone having information concerning this case should contact the Moore County Sheriff’s Office at (910) 947-4444, or the Federal Bureau of Investigation at 1-800-CALL FBI.

As of the morning of Dec.7, Duke Energy said all substation that was damaged by the attacks have been fully repaired or replaced and that power should be restored to all customers before Dec. 8.

Workers work on equipment at the West End Substation, at 6910 NC Hwy 211 in West End, N.C., Monday, Dec. 5, 2022, where a serious attack on critical infrastructure has caused a power outage to many around Southern Pines, N.C. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)

Around 45,000 Moore County customers were left without electricity or heat due to the attacks.  Over 102,000 people live in the county.

The state of emergency that had been called for the county ended at 5 a.m. on Dec. 8, however, Moore County Schools will remain closed for the day. The district has been forced to cancel classes since Monday.

The Moore attacks were not the first of their kind in North Carolina and were, in fact, the second such attack in a month.

On Friday, Nov. 11, a property owned by the Carteret-Craven Electric Cooperative (CCEC) in the Jones County town of Maysville was damaged. More than 12,000 CCEC customers were without power for approximately two hours, according to a statement from the cooperative.

Prior to the attacks in Moore County, six Duke Energy substations in Florida experienced  “intrusion events,” according to a report by News Nation Now, which was formerly known as WGN America.

News Nation Now reported that on “Sept. 21, an intruder “forced entry” into the Zephyrhills North substation in Pasco County, manually tripping equipment that caused an outage lasting nine minutes, according to a report filed with the U.S. Department of Energy.”

A day later the same type of intrusion occurred at the East Clearwater substation in Pinellas County.

There have also been physical attacks on substations in both Washington state and Oregon.

Three Washington substations were vandalized in November; Puget Sound Energy and two substations in the Cowlitz County Public Utility District.

In Oregon, attacks at the Portland General Electric and Bonneville Power Administration in Clackamas County are still being investigated.

Citing U.S. Energy Department data, there have been 106 attack or vandalism incidents from January through August 2022, according to NBC News. The report also said that since 2014, “nearly 600 electric emergency incidents and disturbances were caused by suspected and confirmed physical attacks and vandalism on the electric grid.”

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a warning on Nov. 30 that invoked a reference to the Jan. 6, 2021 protest at the U.S. Capitol. Targets of “potential violence” in the warning bulletin included “public gatherings, faith-based institutions, the LGBTQI+ community, schools, racial and religious minorities, government facilities and personnel, U.S. critical infrastructure, the media, and perceived ideological opponents.”

The bulletin’s extended details focused on “domestic” threats, as well as religious, social, and political issues but made no additional reference to threats to U.S. infrastructure.

The U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ) announced on Feb. 23 that three men had pled guilty to “a scheme to attack power grids in the United States in furtherance of white supremacist ideology.”

Christopher Brenner Cook, 20, of Columbus, Ohio; Jonathan Allen Frost, 24, of West Lafayette, Indiana, and of Katy, Texas; and Jackson Matthew Sawall, 22, of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists, per the USDOJ’s announcement.

Each of the three men was tasked with attacking a substation in a different region of the United States with rifles.

Six months earlier, in August 2021, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of North Carolina issued a statement that four men had been charged with “conspiracy to damage the property of an energy facility in the United States.”

Paul James Kryscuk, 35, Liam Collins, 21, Jordan Duncan, 26, and Joseph Maurino, 22, were charged via a third superseding indictment obtained in the Eastern District of North Carolina,” according to the statement. Collins and Duncan are former Marines that had been assigned to Camp Lejeune.

“According to the indictment, Collins, Kryscuk, Duncan, and Maurino researched, discussed, and reviewed at length a previous attack on the power grid by an unknown group. The group in that attack used assault-style rifles in an attempt to explode a power substation,” the statement reads.

A previous indictment had alleged Collins and Kryscuk were members of the “Iron March” forum, characterized in the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s press release as a “gathering point for young neo-Nazis to organize and recruit for extremist organizations” and that the two men had recruited Duncan, Hermanson, and Maurino.

Some of the men had also manufactured firearms and stolen military gear to give to the others.  The indictment also alleged the men had discussed the use of homemade Thermite to destroy power transformers. Thermite is a mixture of aluminum powder and a metal oxide that can produce bursts of extremely high heat. One of the defendants had even purchased Tannerite, one of the ingredients needed to make Thermite.

 

About A.P. Dillon 834 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_