OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – A federal judge in Oklahoma City says the man jailed on charges of impersonating a federal agent should be released to a halfway house.
44-year-old James Christopher Benvie, who has been a spokesman for a small group of armed civilians patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border, was arrested last Friday in Guthrie, Oklahoma.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Shon Erwin on Tuesday ordered Benvie of Albany, Minnesota, to be released to a halfway house in Las Cruces, New Mexico, once authorities find a place for him.
A grand jury in New Mexico indicted Benvie last week on two counts of impersonating a Border Patrol agent in Dona Ana County, New Mexico, on April 15 and 17.
Erwin also ordered Benvie to find a job, wear a GPS monitoring device and stay at least 10 miles (16 kilometers) away from the U.S.-Mexico border once placed at the halfway house.
Prosecutors alleged Benvie was a flight risk.
In a past interview with the El Paso Times, Benvie described himself as the “face” of the United Constitutional Patriots. The group, at the time, had been camping out and patrolling an area of the border in Anapra, New Mexico.
“This is Mexico. This is where the wall ends. This is dangerous where we’re standing, okay? These people have spotters. This is well organized,” Benvie said. We are here just like anybody else, and the only time we’re going to open fire is if we feel imminent threat or danger to our lives.”
In Oklahoma, Benvie is facing charges of possession of a stolen vehicle.
According to online court records, an arrest warrant was filed in early June, stating the allegations stem from a July 2018 incident.
Guthrie police were reportedly contacted regarding a stolen vehicle out of Montgomery County, Tennessee.
Police said Benvie was spotted sitting behind a table, alleging to be raising money for a child with cancer; however, he was unable to produce a name.
“It’s believed that Benvie was committing fraud by collecting donations, [a] child with cancer that he was unable to provide any information about, a child who allegedly lives in Tennessee,” the arrest warrant states.
Police further received information that a GoFundMe page set by Benvie for the child was “bogus.”
An attorney representing Benvie on the Oklahoma charges told News 4 that he could not comment on the matters Monday.
Oklahoma City-based public defender William Earley is representing Benvie regarding the federal charges. Requests for comment were not returned Monday.