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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of New Mexico

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Federal Jury in New Mexico convicts man from Minnesota of falsely impersonating Border Patrol agent at Southwest border

            ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – A federal jury in Las Cruces, New Mexico returned a guilty verdict on Mar. 3 convicting James Christopher Benvie, 45, of Albany, Minnesota, of two counts of false personation of a Border Patrol agent.        

            According to public court records and evidence at trial, Benvie was a leader and spokesperson for a group of vigilantes who established a “camp” at the Southwest border in Doña Ana County, New Mexico.  Many members of the group wore badges, camouflage and other military-style clothing, often covered their faces with masks, and carried pistols and assault rifles.   Benvie misrepresented himself as a Border Patrol Agent when stopping immigrants he suspected of crossing into the United States illegally.             

            “The jury’s verdict in this case affirms the principle that we are a nation of laws and do not tolerate vigilantes who take the law into their own hands by falsely impersonating Border Patrol agents,” said John C. Anderson, U.S. Attorney for the District of New Mexico.

            “The men and women who earned the right to wear the badge of a Border Patrol agent put their lives on the line every day,” said James C. Langenberg, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Albuquerque Division.  “The FBI is proud to have worked on this case with these brave agents and will never let their honor be stolen by pretenders who scoff at the rule of law.” 

            The evidence at trial showed Benvie and other group members stopped six women and children from El Salvador on Apr. 15, 2019, without any legitimate law enforcement authority.  Benvie misrepresented himself as a Border Patrol agent and interrogated the immigrants before turning them over to actual Border Patrol agents.  On Apr. 17, 2019, Benvie stopped four adults and three children shortly after they crossed the border.  Benvie ordered these immigrants to “stop” while misrepresenting himself as “Border Patrol.”  Benvie later directed these immigrants to move toward the truck of another member of the group for further interrogation before eventually turning them over to Border Patrol. 

             Benvie is currently out of custody awaiting sentencing.  He faces up to three years in prison for each offense. 

             The FBI and U.S. Border Patrol investigated this case.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys from the Las Cruces Branch Office are prosecuting the case.

Press Release Number: 
20-036
Updated March 5, 2020