Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty

Larry Hopkins, the leader of an extremist militia group known as the United Constitutional Patriots was arrested by the FBI last weekend after videos emerged of the group rounding up and detaining migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border in New Mexico.

According to the New York Times, the FBI first became aware of Hopkins activities in 2017, when they received reports that his group was “training to assassinate George Soros, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama because of these individuals’ support of Antifa,” according to newly unsealed court documents.

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“My client told me that is not true,” Hopkins lawyer Kelly O’Connell said of the assassination claims.

Hopkins, it turns out, is not just a militia leader, but a career criminal and conspiracy theorist. The Times runs down some of Hopkins long list of offenses, which includes felony possession of a loaded firearm in 1996, impersonating a police officer in 2006, and failure to pay child support in 2009.

“Hopkins stated that he worked for the federal government directly under George Bush,” Officer Jack Daniel of Klamath County, OR wrote in a report when he encountered Hopkins in 2006. At the time, Hopkins was showing guns to teenagers in a gas station parking lot, wearing a uniform that made him look like a police officer and a badge that said “Special Agent.”

“Mr. Hopkins, the report said, claimed variously to be investigating a meth lab, hunting fugitives and undertaking unspecified ‘operations’ in Afghanistan,” the Times writes.

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When the FBI arrested Hopkins last weekend, it was on charges of possession of firearms and ammunition as a felon. But the agency first learned of his stash of guns over a year and a half ago.

From the Times:

In an affidavit, David S. Gabriel, an F.B.I. special agent, said the bureau was made aware of the activities of Mr. Hopkins after receiving reports in October 2017 of “alleged militia extremist activity” in northwestern New Mexico.

Mr. Gabriel said that the following month, two F.B.I. agents went to a trailer park in Flora Vista, N.M., where Mr. Hopkins was living at the time. With Mr. Hopkins’s consent, the agents entered the home and saw about 10 firearms in plain view, in what Mr. Hopkins referred to as his office.

Mr. Hopkins, who has also used the name Johnny Horton Jr., told the agents that the guns belonged to Fay Sanders Murphy, whom he described to agents as his common-law wife, according to the affidavit. The agents collected at least nine firearms from the home as evidence, including a 12-gauge shotgun and various handguns.

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It’s not clear why the FBI agents didn’t arrest Hopkins at the time, but instead waited till last week, when videos of his militia’s actions surfaced online.

O’Connell says Hopkins plans to plead not guilty to the charges of possessing firearms, and questioned why he was arrested at this time, suggesting that pressure from New Mexico Democrats might be a factor. O’Connell himself was a conservative talk show host until 2017.

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“I’m not a militia specialist,” O’Connell told the Times. “They believe they are helping to enforce the laws of America on immigration.”

The UCP plans to remain in their encampment along the border in Sunland Park, NM, despite their leader’s arrest.

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“We’re not leaving,” UCP spokesman Jim Benvie told the Times.

But rail transportation company Union Pacific says the group has trespassed on their land.

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“They have trespassed on our property to access this camp,” a Union Pacific spokesman, Tim McMahan, told the Times. “While we cannot make them move their camp, we have asked them to not trespass on our property.”