United Constitutional Patriots leader convicted for impersonating Border Patrol agent

This is a PBS NewsHour report on a paramilitary group that called itself Arizona Border Recon, by Special Correspondent Nick Schifrin. The video was uploaded to YouTube in early February 2017. This group was operating at the time in the Altar Valley around Sasabe, Arizona.

A man from a self-organized paramilitary group that patrolled the U.S. border in New Mexico could wind up serving jail time.

A federal jury in Las Cruces, New Mexico on March 3 found James Christopher Benvie guilty on two counts of impersonating a U.S. Border Patrol agent. Benvie, 45, of Albany, Minnesota, is currently out of custody awaiting sentencing, and faces up to three years in prison for each offense.

Benvie, who was arrested in June, was a leader and spokesman for the United Constitutional Patriots, an armed paramilitary group that established a border camp in Doña Ana County in New Mexico and stopped people they suspected had entered the U.S. illegally.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of New Mexico states that many members of the group wore badges and camouflage, often covered their faces with masks, and would carry pistols and assault rifles.

Michael McDevitt of the Las Cruces Sun-News reports that Christopher Benvie was often the only group member to reveal his face. He says he wanted to call public attention to criminal activity like narcotics smuggling and human trafficking that regularly takes place at the southwestern border.

Evidence presented at trial showed that Benvie and other group members stopped six women and children from El Salvador, without any legitimate law enforcement authority, on April 15, 2019. Benvie pretended to be a Border Patrol agent and interrogated the migrants before turning them over to real U.S. Border Patrol officers.

On April 17, 2019, Benvie falsely identified himself as “Border Patrol” while stopping four adults and three children after they crossed the border. He told them to go toward a truck belonging to a member of the group for further questioning, before handing them over to legitimate authorities.

The Las Cruces Sun-News adds that Benvie has been the spokesman for two such groups, namely the United Constitutional Patriots and the Guardian Patriots. He actually gave a tour of the Constitutional Patriots' operation to El Paso Times staff, in 2019.

The United Constitutional Patriots gained notoriety last April when Benvie live-streamed a video to Facebook (currently available here) showing the group detaining about 300 illegal migrants.

In January, another United Constitutional Patriots leader by the name of Larry Mitchell Hopkins, age 70, pleaded guilty in federal court in Albuquerque to being a felon in possession of a firearm. Hopkins is currently in custody awaiting sentencing, and faces up to 10 years in prison.

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