Chris Simcox, the often-troubled founder of the Minutemen, a volunteer group that put hundreds of civilians on the Arizona border to watch for illegal immigrants coming in from Mexico, has been arrested in Phoenix on suspicion of having sexual contact with three girls younger than 10.
Mr. Simcox, 52, was arrested Wednesday and booked into the Maricopa County Jail on suspicion of two counts of molestation of a child, two counts of sexual conduct with a minor and one count of attempted molestation of a child, according to police.
Phoenix police spokesman Sgt. Tommy Thompson said Mr. Simcox was arrested at his Phoenix home without incident. Police said the former kindergarten teacher denied the allegations.
Mr. Simcox helped form the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps movement in April 2005, drawing hundreds of civilian volunteers to the border to report the movement of illegal immigrants to the U.S. Border Patrol.
A frequent witness at congressional hearings, he quit the organization in 2009 and announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate in Arizona against Sen. John McCain, but dropped out of the race.
He is no stranger to legal problems: His ex-wife alleged in court papers in 2010 that he threatened to kill their family, and a federal judge sentenced him in 2004 to two years probation for carrying a firearm on national forest property.
In the 2010 dispute, an Arizona court ruled that an order of protection against Mr. Simcox sought by his then-estranged wife as part of a messy divorce be continued “in full force,” saying evidence showed he committed an act of violence. The petition, sought by Alena Simcox, alleged that Mr. Simcox threatened her and their children with a loaded handgun, saying he would kill them and any police officers who came to their aid.
In court documents, Mrs. Simcox said her husband threatened her with a gun he “repeatedly pointed at me, saying he was going to kill me and my kids and the police.” She said the ordeal lasted six hours, during which she locked herself and her children in a bedroom until Mr. Simcox passed out.
Two former wives also have accused him in court documents of violent conduct.
Mr. Simcox and Jim Gilchrist, a retired California certified public accountant and Vietnam veteran wounded in combat, founded the Minuteman operation in April 2005. They parted ways over policy and financing differences later that year.
A growing number of Minuteman leaders and volunteers eventually questioned the whereabouts of hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, challenging the organization’s leadership over financial accountability.
Many of the group’s most active members said they had no idea how much money had been collected as part of its effort to stop illegal entry, how it had been spent or why it had been funneled through a Virginia-based charity headed by conservative Alan Keyes.
Several of the group’s top lieutenants either quit or were fired by Mr. Simcox. The Minuteman Civil Defense Corps disbanded in March 2010. The financial problems were first reported by The Washington Times.
Even Mr. Simcox’s much-ballyhooed fence project on the Arizona-Mexico border came under fire, from both within and outside the organization. Critics said vast sums of money were collected to build what had been described as an Israeli-style fence to keep out illegal immigrants, but all that has been built is three miles of a five-strand barb-wired range on 2-inch metal poles.
One former Minuteman volunteer said the fence “wouldn’t stop a tricycle.”