Jim Benvie says he helped detain migrants crossing the US-Mexico border as part of a militia group. Now, he’s facing prison time.
Benvie was one of the most recognizable members of the United Constitutional Patriots for his Facebook live streams of the group purportedly attempting to detain migrants; each broadcast received tens of thousands of views.
The group was active this year along the US-Mexico border in New Mexico. In Benvie’s Facebook Live videos, members are seen carrying firearms and wearing military fatigues, trying to capture and detain people who they say are migrants illegally entering the United States.
The ACLU likened its operations to kidnapping.
Benvie is now accused of federal crimes from his time with the group. He’s facing felony charges of false impersonation of a US Border Patrol agent on two occasions. Each count carries potential fines and a sentence of up to three years in prison.
Benvie was arrested Friday in Oklahoma City and has a court appearance scheduled for Tuesday. His court-appointed attorney, William P. Earley, has not responded to a request for comment.
The Facebook Live videos that gained the group notoriety may be key to the case.
Two of them from Benvie’s profile, streamed on the same dates mentioned in the criminal complaint, feature someone appearing to identify himself as a US Border Patrol agent.
In a video from April 15, an unseen individual approaches a group of people on a road and says, “US Border Patrol, what are you guys doing?”
In a video from April 17, an unseen individual gets out of a vehicle, approaches another group and says “Border Patrol” before interrogating the group.
When CNN reported on these videos in April, a Customs and Border Protection spokesman said the agency was looking into videos in which a member of the United Constitutional Patriots appears to claim that he works for the Border Patrol.
The group ceased operation in late April, shortly after its founder was arrested on weapons charges.