Former Sunland Park militia leader gets nearly 2 years in prison for impersonating Border Patrol agent
ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico -- A former Sunland Park militia leader convicted of impersonating a U.S. Border Patrol agent has been sentenced to almost two years in prison.
Federal prosecutors said 45-year-old James Christopher Benvie received a sentence Thursday of 21 months in prison followed by a year of supervised release. He had faced as much as six years in prison after his conviction in March on two counts of false impersonation.
According to public court records and evidence at his trial, Benvie was a leader and spokesperson for a group of vigilantes known as the Guardian Patriots who established a “camp” at the Mexican border in the Sunland Park area of Dona Ana County.
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.
Prosecutors said Benvie misrepresented himself as a Border Patrol agent when stopping immigrants he suspected of crossing into the United States illegally.
According to prosecutors, Benvie and other group members stopped six women and children from El Salvador on Apr. 15, 2019, and four adults and three children two days later without any legitimate law enforcement authority.
They said Benvie interrogated the immigrants both times before turning them over to actual Border Patrol agents.