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Substation vandal gets no jail time in scheme to rob stores, ATMs

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(The Center Square) – A former Puyallup man who vandalized four substations with a co-defendant on Christmas Day 2022 in a plot to disrupt electrical service so they could rob retail stores and bank ATMs was sentenced Friday in federal court to home detention and probation.

Matthew Greenwood, 32, pleaded guilty last April to conspiracy to destroy energy facilities, admitting that he and co-defendant Jeremy Crahan, 40, also of Puyallup, schemed to sabotage the substations in Pierce County.

The Dec. 25, 2022, incidents left more than 15,500 customers without power, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The two men were arrested on New Year’s Eve by authorities who identified them as suspects by using cellphone data showing both were in the vicinity of all four locations at the same time.

Investigators also alleged that Greenwood had articles of clothing which matched images of one of the two men observed in surveillance videos at the sites. He was also initially accused of possessing two unregistered firearms: a short-barreled rifle and a short-barreled shotgun.

Greenwood and Crahan cut padlocks and fences to enter the Elk Plain substation in Spanaway and Graham substation in Graham, both operated by Tacoma Power; and the Hemlock substation in Puyallup and Kapowsin substation in Graham operated by Puget Sound Energy. They manipulated switches and breakers, causing extensive equipment damage along with the power outages. An initial criminal complaint said damage to the Tacoma Power substations was estimated to be at least $3 million.

The two defendants also plotted to topple trees to take down power lines, but were arrested before putting that plan into action, said Tessa M. Gorman, U.S. Attorney for Western Washington, in a news release Friday.

Conspiracy to attack energy facilities is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, while possession of an unregistered firearm can carry a 10-year term.

During Friday’s hearing, Chief U.S. District Court Judge David Estudillo of Tacoma said the crimes were “very serious,” but he acknowledged that Greenwood had made “great progress” turning his life around during pre-trial release after his arrest.

Estudillo ordered Greenwood to complete one year of home detention and three years of supervised probation. Federal prosecutors joined with U.S. Probation officials in recommending the sentence so the defendant “could continue his progress toward a drug-free and law-abiding life,” said Gorman’s office.

In contrast, Crahan “was not successful” in a drug treatment program and was sentenced in December to 18 months in prison.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Greenberg prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the FBI with assistance from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; Pierce County Sheriff’s Office, Tacoma Police Department, Washington State Department of Corrections, and Federal Protective Service.

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