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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of South Carolina

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

White Supremacist Pleads Guilty to Federal Gun Charges

Columbia, South Carolina ---- United States Attorney Beth Drake stated today that Benjamin Thomas Samuel McDowell, age 30, of Conway, South Carolina, pled guilty in federal court in Florence, South Carolina.  McDowell pled guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition, a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 922(g).  United States District Judge Bryan Harwell, of Florence, accepted the plea and will impose sentences after he has reviewed the presentence report, which will be prepared by the U.S. Probation Office.

Evidence presented at the guilty plea hearing established that the FBI became aware of McDowell’s escalating white supremacist views on social media where McDowell advocated violence against non-whites and even expressed admiration for Dylann Roof and the extreme acts of violence perpetrated by him.  Of particular concern to the FBI were McDowell’s comments regarding a particular Jewish Synagogue which implied that this place of worship might be a possible target of violence.  McDowell also used social media to communicate an interest in acquiring a gun.  In response the FBI arranged for an undercover agent posing as a member of a white supremacist organization to become acquainted with McDowell for the purpose of determining the nature of his white supremacist leanings and whether McDowell intended to carry out any acts of violence. 

McDowell and the undercover agent engaged in multiple recorded conversations during which McDowell reaffirmed his respect for Dylann Roof and spoke generally about committing acts of violence against people of the Jewish and Muslim faiths.  McDowell also repeated his desire to obtain a gun.  While McDowell never revealed any specific plan to attack a particular location or victim, he did express a general desire to use the gun to commit acts of violence.  During further conversations with the undercover FBI agent, McDowell eventually specified that he wanted a .40 caliber Glock pistol and .40 caliber hollow-point ammunition.  The agent was able to set up a controlled sale of a .40 caliber pistol and ammunition to McDowell to take place on February 15, 2017.  The FBI provided the agent with a .40 caliber Glock which had been rendered “inert” by having the firing pin shaved down so that the gun could not fire.  On February 15, the agent met with McDowell and sold him the inert .40 caliber pistol and hollow-point ammunition for $109.  Soon thereafter McDowell was arrested in the parking lot of a hotel in Myrtle Beach during which the pistol and ammunition were recovered from a bag McDowell was carrying.  During a post-arrest interview McDowell admitted to agents that he had purchased the gun and ammunition.

Prior to February 15, 2017, McDowell had been convicted of a felony which prohibits him from possessing a firearm or ammunition.                                  

Ms. Drake stated the maximum penalty McDowell can receive is imprisonment for 10 years and a fine of $250,000.00. 

The case was investigated by agents of the FBI with the assistance of the Horry County Police Department, the Myrtle Beach Police Department and the Horry County Sheriff’s Office.  Assistant United States Attorney A. Bradley Parham of the Florence office is prosecuting the case.


Firearms Offenses
Lance Crick (864) 282-2105
Updated February 28, 2018