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Alleged extremist arrested at T station on illegal gun charge

Pepo Herd El, 47, was charged with one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition.

A Dorchester man who allegedly embraces an extremist anti-government ideology and who purchased close to 200 online items related to guns, ammunition and bomb-making materials since 2019 was arrested Thanksgiving night on a gun charge at the Ruggles MBTA station by federal agents.

Pepo Herd El, 47, was charged with one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition and was held pending a Dec. 2 detention hearing, the US Attorney’s office said in a statement Friday.

It is illegal for El to have a gun or ammunition because he was convicted in 2004 on two felony charges of possessing guns without permits, prosecutors said.

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On Thursday, FBI agents also executed a search warrant at an apartment on McLellan Street in Dorchester where El lives alone, according to a legal filing.

At the time of his arrest, El was wearing a bulletproof vest, a jacket that read “security,” and a fanny pack, which contained the gun and the magazines, according to the filing.

El has been under law enforcement surveillance and is suspected of gathering chemicals that can be used to make explosives and buying body armor, according to the statement.

Social media accounts show that El “adheres to the anti-government/anti-authority sovereign citizen extremist ideology,” according to the criminal complaint filed in the case.

So-called sovereign citizens “claim to have special knowledge or heritage rendering them immune from government authority and laws,” according to the filing. Extremists with such beliefs “sometimes express their ideology through physical force or violence” or “use their beliefs to justify nonviolent fraud or theft,” according to the filing.

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El has a Florida driver’s license and appears to be using two Social Security numbers. He is also known by the name of Pepo Wamchawi Herd, the name on his birth certificate, the filing said.

Earlier this month, the FBI obtained shopping records from Amazon and eBay showing that El spent more than $10,000 on purchases since the beginning of last year, about half of which “relate to firearms, chemicals, security, or other concerning items,” the FBI said.

His alleged gun-related purchases include a laser sight, several magazines, and a shoulder holster, many of which are compatible with a Glock 27 subcompact pistol, according to the filing.

He has also bought numerous chemicals through the accounts that have “innocent household or industrial” uses but can also be used to make explosives, the complaint says. His purchases allegedly include body armor, a pellet gun, at least 800 air rifle pellets, and 20 feet of fuse for model rockets, which could be used to detonate other explosives.

His orders also allegedly included surveillance equipment and uniform accessories, including knit beanies with the Home Depot and Amtrak logos and a police patch.

Early on Thursday afternoon, El took a bus from Dorchester to Ruggles, where he was detained and searched by FBI agents who had a search warrant and found a loaded Glock 27 pistol, three loaded magazines, and a knife, according to prosecutors.

In his wallet, El had a receipt for the Glock 27 from a gun store in Palm Beach, Fla., the document says.

The FBI also searched El’s McLellan Street home, where they found chemicals that appeared to be some of those he purchased online but did not find explosives, according to the document.

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Because the home is “disorganized and cluttered” and agents must take special precautions in case explosives are present, the search has been slow and was incomplete Friday, the filing says. Bomb technicians searched the home Thursday until about 4:30 p.m. and returned at 7 a.m. Friday so they could work during daylight, the filing said.

An investigation is ongoing.

El faces up to 10 years in prison plus three of supervised release and a $250,000 fine if he is convicted, according to the US Attorney’s office.

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