A Tennessee man accused by the federal government of plotting to attack immigrants at the southern border just “talks a big game” and did not intend to harm anyone, his son has said.
Paul Faye, 55, was arrested on Monday and charged with selling an unregistered firearm suppressor, following a nearly year-long investigation into his alleged activities concerning illegal immigrants and the US-Mexico border.
A criminal complaint filed by federal prosecutors in Nashville, Tennessee, alleged he unwittingly told an undercover FBI agent he was coordinating with far-right militia groups from Kentucky, Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee and planned to travel to the southern border with an arsenal of weapons and explosives.
The complaint added that he intended to “stir up the hornet’s nest” by acting as a sniper – seemingly targeting immigrants and US border officials.
However, his son, Joseph Faye, 30, called the government’s claims “ridiculous” and insisted his father did not intend to harm anyone.
“They think my dad is a terrorist,” he told NBC News. “He’s not a terrorist. He talks a big game, but it’s all lies.”
He added that his father is “not a sniper”.
“We went hunting and my dad had to shoot at a deer standing still three different times before he hit it. He’s not a sniper,” he said.
Joseph Faye went on to describe his father as a “compulsive liar” with mental health issues, adding that he would often watch and share videos from anti-government channels on TikTok, where people talked about the country “being invaded” by immigrants.
Mr Faye’s arrest this week came after a year-long undercover FBI operation. Court documents allege the 55-year-old first made contact with undercover agents when he was contacted by one on TikTok in March 2023, with whom he discussed details of the attack he was apparently planning.
Three undercover FBI agents then met with Mr Faye in April, court documents added, at which point he “discussed his belief that the government was training to take on its citizens and, more specifically, that the federal government was allowing illegal immigrants to enter the United States to help the government.”
The next month, Mr Faye allegedly spoke with an undercover agent again in a phone call and warned: “The patriots are going to rise up because we are being invaded. We are being invaded.”
Mr Faye’s son described the FBI’s investigation as government overreach, adding that undercover agents “constantly” contacted his father and met with him in person at least four times.
Joseph Faye said he was present for at least three of the meetings and repeatedly warned his father that the men he was meeting with were undercover agents.
“I said, ‘they’re feds, they’re undercover cops,’ and he said, ‘no they’re not’,” Joseph told NBC. “Every time they came to see us, they’d be in different vehicles. They always brought ARs. Once, we went out camping with my family and the next thing I know they show up. I told my dad, ‘they’re feds, no doubt about it’.”
He added that the undercover agents gave his father food and gifts, including Second Amendment patches and a “Don’t Tread on Me” Gadsden flag.
According to the criminal complaint, Mr Faye met with the undercover agents for the last time in January when he invited them to his “war room” at his home, which was filled with guns, ammunition, and tactical gear.
Joseph told NBC the guns in his father’s trailer belonged to him, explaining that he keeps his firearms at his father’s country home, where they hunt and target practice. “I’m a deer hunter. I have hunting rifles. The only gun my father owns is an old shotgun he got from his dad before he died.”
FBI agents were first alerted to Mr Faye following the October 2022 indictment of Brian Perry, a militia member from Tennessee who, with another militia member, allegedly conspired to “go to war with border patrol” and murder migrants at the border.
Investigators said Perry had had “extensive” contact with Mr Faye in the lead-up to his arrest.
Joseph Faye said his father met Perry on TikTok, which led to the two men meeting at his father’s property to target shoot.
At this point, Joseph said, Perry showed an interest in joining a small survivalist group to which he, his father and four other men belonged.
“Our group is about being able to survive in the wild, just good old country boy stuff,” Joseph told NBC. He added that the focus of the group is not on surviving government overreach or a civil war, but on a “Walking Dead situation,” referring to the post-apocalyptic TV series. “We aren’t trying to hurt anybody, and it damn sure isn’t some militia,” he said.
Joseph Faye said he told his father to stop talking to Perry after he began talking about the president and the border constantly.
“I got bad vibes,” he said, adding that his father ignored his pleas and continued talking to Perry. “Now he’s guilty by association,” he said.
Mr Faye was eventually charged this week after he allegedly sold an undercover FBI employee an AK-47 rifle suppressor for $100 that was not registered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
He faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison if convicted.