Feds arrest gun-toting, anti-government activist

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Israel Torres spoke out for gun rights in online videos and social media but now he's in federal custody because he allegedly had guns when he wasn't allowed to. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Israel Torres spoke out for gun rights in online videos and social media but now he's in federal custody because he allegedly had guns when he wasn't allowed to. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

Israel Torres made a name for himself in the so-called "three percenters" circles by attending rallies and posting pictures and videos on social media. Oftentimes Torres was armed.

But according to the FBI, this gun-rights and anti-government advocate had a secret. Legally, he wasn't allowed to possess a firearm because of two felony DUI convictions.

Torres is the leader of a group that calls itself, "#BQG." It stands for "Barter Quality Goods." Bartering is a common theme in Torres' videos, where he talks about the need to barter, once the government collapses. So-called "three percenters" are part of the patriot movement. Its adherents believe the government is increasingly infringing on people's constitutional rights. Most often, that perceived infringement involves guns and property.

Torres and his group attended several rallies in support of the group of armed men who took over a wildlife refuge in Oregon last year. They also took part in a protest in front of a Phoenix mosque two years ago.

But experts who monitor militia-type groups told CBS 5 Investigates they had not heard much about Torres or his organization before. That relative anonymity ended last week, when an FBI special agent with the Joint Terrorism Task Force, or JTTF, submitted a statement of probable cause to arrest Torres for firearms possession. It was Torres' social media presence that provided the evidence.

Former FBI Special Agent John Iannarelli says it is common for the JTTF to monitor militia-type groups, and make arrests with lesser charges if they spot someone who's breaking the law.

"Whether they build a case and arrest them on terrorism, or if they look at current charges, such as illegal possession of a weapon, the bottom line is that person is off the street and no longer a possible threat to the public," said Iannarelli.

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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Morgan  LoewMorgan Loew is an investigative reporter at CBS 5 News. His career has taken him to every corner of the state, lots of corners in the United States, and some far-flung corners of the globe.

Click to learn more about Morgan .

Morgan Loew
CBS 5 Investigates

Morgan’s past assignments include covering the invasion of Iraq, human smuggling in Mexico, vigilantes on the border and Sheriff Arpaio in Maricopa County. His reports have appeared or been featured on CBS News, CNN, NBC News, MSNBC and NPR.

Morgan’s peers have recognized his work with 11 Rocky Mountain Emmy Awards , two regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for investigative reporting, an SPJ First Amendment Award and a commendation from the Humane Society of the United States. Last fall, Morgan was inducted into the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Silver Circle, in recognition of 25 years of contribution to the television industry in Arizona.

Morgan is a graduate of the University of Arizona journalism school and Concord Law School. He is the president of the Arizona First Amendment Coalition and teaches media law and TV news reporting at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

When he’s not out looking for the next big news story, Morgan enjoys hiking, camping, cheering for the Arizona Wildcats and spending time with his family at their southern Arizona ranch.

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