In arguing that a man found with a cache of illegal weapons after driving a truck through a crowd of Black Lives Matter protesters in Pasadena in May remains a public threat and should not be released from custody pending trial, federal prosecutors have outlined his alleged “alarming” activities, including the stockpiling of an arsenal of illegal weapons and the conversion of a portion of his family’s vineyard in Lodi into a military-style training facility.
Benjamin Jong Ren Hung, 28, was scheduled to appear in federal court in Los Angeles Wednesday for a detention review hearing, according to U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Thom Mrozek.
Hung, a resident of San Marino, was arrested on May 31 after Pasadena police and federal prosecutors say he drove his flag-adorned 4×4 pickup truck through a crowd of demonstrators, as well as plain-clothes police officers, during a BLM demonstration in Pasadena, narrowly missing several people.
Pasadena police found a loaded handgun in Hung’s truck, which was fitted with an Oregon license plate reading “WAR R1G,” and arrested him on suspicion of illegally possessing the gun in public. A metal pipe, a machete and a megaphone were also found in the truck, officials said.
Hung was released from custody after posting a $30,000 bond, according to Los Angeles County booking records.
The arrest drew attention from federal investigators, who learned Hung had been illegally stockpiling guns, according to the DOJ. Hung was re-arrested in September on federal charges of conspiracy to transport firearms across state lines and making a false statement in the acquisition of firearms. He has remained in custody since a judge determined he posed a danger to the public. He pleaded not guilty to the charges in October.
Hung has challenged the ruling and is seeking to be released on bond pending trial, court documents show.
In an opposition filing last week by federal prosecutors, they described the allegations against Hung.
“Through straw purchases and illegal transfers, [the] defendant amassed an arsenal of more than 30 firearms, including several assault rifles and modified short-barrel rifles that are illegal to possess under federal and state law,” it said. “Upon [the] defendant’s arrest in this case last month, law enforcement seized some – but not all – of those firearms, as well as over 70,000 rounds of ammunition, and tens of thousands of dollars of tactical assault equipment.”
“Throughout 2020, [the] defendant and a group of associates, who called themselves the ‘Shooters of the Nest,’ wrote about their efforts to train for urban combat, and their desire to amass an arsenal to confront and kill members of ‘Antifa,’” according to the court filing.
A witness told investigators that Hung “would assert that health restrictions ostensibly due to COVID-19 were actually a plot by the government to ‘control us,’ that the government was purposefully allowing civil unrest as a pretext to use the military to take away guns and other freedoms from citizens, and that they needed to be ready when things got out of hand,” the document states.
On the night before the May 31 incident in Pasadena, Hung had “similarly confronted protesters in Los Angeles, screaming ‘(expletive) you!’ and ‘I will kill you!’ and ‘coal rolling’ groups of people in his War Rig,” the document alleged. “Coal rolling” refers to intentionally spraying others with thick vehicle exhaust.
Following his arrest in Pasadena, prosecutors said Hung only seemed to grow bolder.
“After his arrest on May 31, defendant lied to police officers, bragged that the War Rig had become a ‘national icon,’ accelerated his stockpiling of tactical assault equipment, and sent increasingly alarming messages about ‘eradicating’ the ‘scum’ who would ‘pray for a quick death’ when he confronted them with his arsenal,” according to the court document.
Financial records obtained by investigators showed that Hung had bought at least $8,500 worth of “tactical gear and ammunition” between 2018 and 2020, as well as approximately $20,000 worth of “similar equipment” between June and August of this year.
In the time since the previous judge reached the determination that Hung should be held without bond before trial in September, additional evidence “has only reinforced it, highlighting defendant’s lies to the government, and revealing the broader scope of his illegal conduct, leading the government to evaluate several additional felony charges,” the filing said.
“Furthermore, due to [the] defendant’s intentional efforts to conceal his ownership of firearms through straw purchases, illegal transfers, the creation of ‘ghost guns,’ and the failure to register any firearms, the government still has been unable to locate at least four firearms. Finally, [the] defendant’s (and his wife’s) lies to law enforcement and a court officer only exacerbates the risk of his release.”
“Moreover, [the] defendant’s statements to his other like-minded compatriots suggest, at bare minimum, a distrust in government authority that further raises concerns about his willingness to comply with court orders,” prosecutors wrote.