Wed, Apr 24, 2019 - Page 7 News List

UCP leader ‘boasted of’ assassination training

‘FASCIST MILITIA’:New Mexico’s governor ordered an investigation of the US border group, whose leader was arrested on Saturday on a weapons charge from 2017

Reuters, TAOS and LAS CRUCES, New Mexico

The leader of an armed group stopping undocumented migrants who cross into the US from Mexico had boasted that his members had trained to assassinate former US president Barack Obama and former US secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton, an FBI agent said in court papers on Monday.

Larry Hopkins was arrested on Saturday last week on a weapons charge.

His camouflage-wearing armed United Constitutional Patriots (UCP) members claim to have helped US officials detain about 5,600 migrants in New Mexico in the past 60 days.

The UCP said that its two-month presence at the border is intended to support the US Border Patrol.

Critics accuse the UCP of being a “fascist militia” whose members illegally detain and kidnap migrants by impersonating law enforcement.

New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham on Friday last week ordered an investigation of the group, saying that “menacing or threatening migrant families and asylum seekers is absolutely unacceptable and must cease.”

The FBI in court papers said that while it was investigating allegations of “militia extremist activity” in 2017, witnesses accused Hopkins of saying that the UCP was planning to assassinate Obama, Clinton and financier George Soros.

On Monday, Hopkins appeared in court in Las Cruces, New Mexico, to face charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm. The FBI said it found guns during a 2017 visit to his home.

Defense attorney Kelly O’Connell said that Hopkins planned to plead not guilty and added that the charges were unrelated to UCP’s actions at the border.

FBI special agent David Gabriel said in a criminal complaint filed on Monday that in October 2017, the agency received reports a militia was being run out of Hopkins’ home in Flora Vista, New Mexico.

When agents entered the home they collected nine firearms that Horton was illegally in possession of, as he had at least one prior felony conviction, the complaint said.

The FBI said in court papers that in 2006, Hopkins was convicted of criminal impersonation of a peace officer and felony possession of a firearm, and that in 1996 he was also convicted on a firearms charge.

Hopkins told the agents that his common-law wife owned the weapons, court papers said.

At the time, the FBI had received information that the UCP had about 20 members and was armed with AK-47 rifles and other firearms.

Former state and federal prosecutor David Weinstein said that the border patrol’s tacit allowance of the UCP to operate might have allowed it to go beyond what citizens are legally allowed to do.

“To the extent where the FBI has got involved, I think it’s escalated to a point where they need to send a stronger message out to them that ‘No, we told you not to do this,’” Weinstein said.

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