Alleged white supremacist pleads guilty to federal gun charges

Columbia, S.C. (WOLO) – United States Attorney Beth Drake stated today that Benjamin Thomas Samuel McDowell, age 30, of Conway, South Carolina, pled guilty in federal court in Florence, South Carolina.  McDowell pled guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. 

FBI officials say they became aware of McDowell’s escalating white supremacist views on social media. McDowell advocated violence against non-whites and expressed admiration of Dylann Roof. McDowell made comments regarding a particular Jewish Synagogue which implied that the place of worship might be a possible target of violence. McDowell also used social media to communicate an interest in acquiring a gun.  In response the FBI arranged for an undercover agent posing as a member of a white supremacist organization to become acquainted with McDowell for the purpose of determining the nature of his white supremacist leanings and whether McDowell intended to carry out any acts of violence.

McDowell and the undercover agent engaged in multiple recorded conversations during which McDowell reaffirmed his respect for Dylann Roof and spoke generally about committing acts of violence against people of the Jewish and Muslim faiths, officials say.  McDowell also repeated his desire to obtain a gun.  While McDowell never revealed any specific plan to attack a particular location or victim, he did express a general desire to use the gun to commit acts of violence.

On Feb. 15, officials say an agent met with McDowell and sold him a .40 caliber pistol and hollow-point ammunition for $109.  Soon thereafter McDowell was arrested in the parking lot of a hotel in Myrtle Beach.  During a post-arrest interview McDowell admitted to agents that he had purchased the gun and ammunition.

Prior to February 15, 2017, McDowell had been convicted of a felony which prohibits him from possessing a firearm or ammunition.

The maximum penalty McDowell can receive is imprisonment for 10 years and a fine of $250,000.00.

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