Texas man pleads guilty to conspiracy to attack Amazon data servers
A Wichita Falls man pleaded guilty Wednesday to plotting to attack an Amazon Web Services data center – an act he hoped would “kill about 70% of the Internet,” federal officials said.
Seth Aaron Pendley has pleaded guilty to a malicious attempt to destroy a building with an explosive. He faces between five and 20 years in prison when sentenced in federal court in October, according to the North Texas District Attorney’s Office.
A federal public defender who represents Pendley did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
The investigation began in January after an informant informed the FBI of messages posted by a user on online forums used by militia supporters, according to the complaint filed against Pendley, 28. Pendley, using the pseudonym Dionysus, claimed to have been in Washington, DC, during the Jan.6 uprising at the United States Capitol.
Court records say he shared a video from outside the Capitol on January 6, but said he did not enter the building.
In the messages, according to the complaint, Pendley claimed he brought an AR-type weapon to Washington but left it in his car. In the days following the riot, Pendley continued to post on the forum, saying he wanted to “run a little experiment.”
When another user asked Pendley what the desired outcome was, Pendley replied, “Dead,” authorities said.
In late January, Pendley began contacting a confidential informant, revealing a plan to blow up Amazon-owned data centers, federal authorities said. Pendley sent the informant a handwritten list of several data centers, many in Virginia.
“Oh yeah, if I had cancer or something I would just bomb these servers lol,” Pendley said in a post, according to the complaint. He ultimately narrowed his search down to a single data center, creating a hand-drawn map of the center that showed the ways in and out of the facility, according to the complaint.
Pendley said he hopes the government overreacts to the attack, according to the complaint.
He and the informant met on March 31 in Fort Worth, authorities said. During the meeting, Pendley was introduced to someone he believed would provide explosives for the attack. This person was actually an undercover FBI agent, authorities said. During a subsequent meeting, the undercover agent gave Pendley fake explosives, authorities said. After Pendley put the explosives in his car, he was arrested.
During a search of Pendley’s home, authorities said they recovered an AR-type rifle with the barrel sawn off, a pistol painted to look like a toy gun and notes relating to the planned attack on the data center.
“We may never know how many technician lives were saved as a result of this operation,” Acting US District Attorney for the North Texas District Prerak Shah said in a statement, “and we are grateful that never had to find out “.