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Man who impersonated Border Patrol sentenced

This undated photo shows James Christopher Benvie. (Mark Lambie/The El Paso Times via AP)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A man who was convicted of impersonating a Border Patrol agent has been sentenced to 21 months in federal prison.

In March, a federal jury found James Christopher Benvie, 45, of Minnesota guilty of two counts of false personification of a Border Patrol agent. The U.S. Attorney’s Office described him as the leader and spokesman for a group of vigilantes called the Guardian Patriots, which had formed a camp at the Southwest border in Doña Ana County.

Many members of the groups wore badges, camouflage or military-style clothing and carried pistols or assault rifles, according to a spokesman for the U.S. Attorneys Office for New Mexico.

“The evidence at trial showed Benvie and other group members stopped six women and children from El Salvador on April 15, 2019, without any legitimate law enforcement authority,” spokesman Scott Howell wrote in a news release. “Benvie misrepresented himself as a Border Patrol agent and interrogated the immigrants before turning them over to actual Border Patrol agents.”

Howell said Benvie also impersonated a Border Patrol agent when he stopped four adults and three children a couple of days later.

This summer, after he was found guilty but before he was sentenced on Oct. 15, Benvie was apparently the general manager at Filling Philly’s, a restaurant in Downtown Albuquerque that was criticized for asking a militia group to guard it during protests.

Benvie will be on one year of supervised release once he is released from prison.

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