South Bay engineer arraigned in court on federal charges for blowing up PG&E transformers

A San Jose man was arraigned on a previous indictment for bombing two Pacific Gas and Electric transformers late last year and at the beginning of this year, officials say.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for Northern District of California said that Peter Karasev, a 36-year-old engineer, was arraigned in court on Tuesday. The bombing of the energy facilities on Dec. 8, 2022 and Jan. 5, 2023, left thousands of households and businesses in the South Bay without power. 

The defendant is charged with destroying energy facilities and using fire or explosives to commit a federal crime. According to court documents, Karasev was indicted Oct. 19. He is alleged to have knowingly and willfully damaged the PG&E transformers causing and attempting to cause significant interruption and impairment of the energy facilities. 

"These charges make clear that those who attack our country’s critical infrastructure will be met with the full force of the Justice Department," said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. "We have charged Peter Karasev with bombing two energy transformers in Northern California, leaving more than 1,500 households and businesses in the San Jose community without power. I want to thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Northern District of California and the FBI for their work to bring the defendant to justice and prevent further harm to the San Jose community."

FBI Director Christopher Wray said the indictment alleges Karasev built explosive devices and used them to damage the facilities. 

"The FBI is laser focused on protecting the essential infrastructure that Americans rely on every day, and we and our partners like the San Jose Police Department will use every lawful means to hold anyone who targets that infrastructure accountable," Wray said. 

U.S. Attorney Ismail J. Ramsey for the Northern District of California said attacks on critical infrastructure endangers innocent victims, including those who are vulnerable such as the elderly and sick.

A government memo says that in the months leading up to the attacks on the facilities, Karasev built and experimented with homemade explosives. He is also said to have manufactured methamphetamine in his own home. At the time of his arrest, Karasev was alleged to have been in possession of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in varying stages of completion. Federal officials said he also possessed additional weapons, including firearms and over 300 pounds of explosive materials and hazardous substances. 

Karasev was arrested in March and remained in custody on related state charges prior to being transferred to federal custody, officials said. 

The defendant is charged with two counts of destruction of an energy facility and one count of use of fire or an explosive device to commit a federal felony. If convicted, officials said Karasev faces a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years in prison. He faces a maximum penalty of up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release for each count. Karasev will be sentenced by a federal district court judge. 

In March, San Jose police released surveillance video showing a man they believed to be Karasev appearing to hide a device at a PG&E location on Snell Avenue. He then rides away on a bicycle. Police said after he rode away, the transformer goes up in flames. The engineer lived with his wife and three children. 

Santa Clara County's district attorney had previously charged Karasev with a variety of crimes similar to the federal charges, but had also included child endangerment. At the time the public defender asked for their client's release, noting his absence of criminal history. That request was denied. 

No one was injured in the blasts. 

Officials said the FBI and San Jose Police Department are investigating this case.