A Militia Leader Who Rounded Up Migrants At The Border Has Been Arrested
"Stop!" Jim Benvie was heard yelling in Spanish to immigrants in a Facebook video. "US Border Patrol. What are you guys doing?"
Jim Benvie claimed he and members of a militia at the US–Mexico border were there to help. Instead, federal prosecutors have charged Benvie with twice impersonating a Border Patrol agent to stop immigrants in New Mexico.
The evidence, it appears, was recorded by Benvie himself for videos posted on his Facebook profile.
In one video, posted April 15, Benvie yells "Stop!" in Spanish at a group of six people from El Salvador seeking asylum in New Mexico.
"US Border Patrol," he adds. "What are you guys doing?"
Often wearing a camouflage jacket and a badge that reads "Fugitive Recovery Agent," Benvie — who remained in federal custody for a hearing scheduled for Tuesday — has acted as a spokesperson for two border militias in New Mexico that have detained hundreds of immigrants, sometimes at gunpoint.
Two days after the April 15 video, Benvie posted a second Facebook video of himself talking to viewers and driving along the border wall when a group of people crosses into the US.
"Stop! Stop!" Benvie yells in Spanish before instructing the people to sit on the dirt. "Border Patrol. Right, right."
The impersonation charges are the latest to be filed against militia members who have stationed themselves at the border in New Mexico for months, posting videos on Facebook on a nearly daily basis to drum up support and financial help.
At first associated with a group known as the United Constitutional Patriots, Benvie and other members splintered off and created a new group after their leader was arrested and charged with being a felon in possession of firearms. The group, according to court documents, had been training to assassinate former president Barack Obama, former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and billionaire George Soros.
The new group, named Guardian Patriots, was hoping to distance itself from United Constitutional Patriots, Benvie told BuzzFeed News in a previous interview.
In pictures and videos posted on Facebook, other members of the United Constitutional Patriots can be seen wearing camouflage clothing and badges that read "Fugitive Recovery Agent." In some of the pictures, members of the militia are wearing the badges while posing with actual Border Patrol agents.
Most recently, Benvie had been posting videos from a private lot of land in Sunland Park, New Mexico, where the group "We Build the Wall" constructed a crowdfunded border wall.
There, Benvie had told BuzzFeed News in previous interviews that the Guardian Patriots group was helping provide security for the construction site and immediate area. In his videos, Benvie posted videos of the construction and asked people to donate to the group's efforts, but he insisted Guardian Patriots and We Build the Wall were not affiliated with each other.
In a second, unrelated criminal case, court records show, Benvie was also charged in Oklahoma on Friday with fraud after he was accused of running a scam, in which he allegedly collected donations for a child who had been diagnosed with cancer.
During that arrest in Logan County, Oklahoma, the officer who made contact with Benvie noticed he was sitting at a table and claiming to be collecting cash for a child with cancer. Benvie claimed the child, a friend's son, had been diagnosed with brain cancer but, when asked, was unable to tell the officer the child's name.
The child's father, Eric Cremeens, told the Daily Beast he had been searching for Benvie across four states after hearing he had been running the alleged scam.
"The only thing he's done is threaten to sue me when we exposed who he was and what he was doing," he said.