A former military sniper instructor has been arrested on charges that he plotted with other former soldiers to kill an American drug agent overseas and help drug cartels ship cocaine into the U.S.
Federal prosecutors in New York say former U.S. Army Sgt. Joseph M. Hunter, who went by the nickname "Rambo," organized a hit squad made up of another former Army soldier and retired solders from Germany and Poland. Drug Enforcement Administration agents said the group was also willing to work as a surveillance and security team for cartels.
DEA agents said Hunter recruited the former soldiers by reviewing resumes he received via email.
They said the team worked to obtain weapons for the planned hits, including a sniper rifle, .22-caliber revolvers with silencers, sub-machine guns. In the sting, Hunter allegedly agreed to an $800,000 payment for his team to kill the DEA agent.
Members of the team met with three people they thought were representatives of a Colombian cocaine cartel but were actually undercover informants for the DEA. In June, four members of the team went to the Caribbean to conduct surveillance on an airplane they were told was flying cocaine to the U.S.
Over the summer, members of the team allegedly met with the undercover informants in Asia to plan how they would kill a DEA agent in Africa and another person they were told was providing information to the U.S. government. Prosecutors say two members of the team flew to Africa on Wednesday to carry out the murder but were arrested there.
"The job is not the headache -- it's getting in and out," said one team member, a former U.S. Army sergeant, according to court documents. The other team member that went to Africa, a former German soldier, was recorded saying, "Actually, for me, that's fun. I love this work," according to prosecutors.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara called the defendants an "international band of mercenary marksmen who enlisted their elite military training to serve as hired guns for evil ends."
"Three of the defendants were ready, willing and eager to take cold hard cash to commit the cold-blooded murders of a DEA agent and an informant," he said.
Hunter was arrested in Thailand overnight and was seen being led in handcuffs to a plane that flew him to New York to face charges of conspiracy to murder a law enforcement agent, conspiracy to commit murder and conspiracy to import cocaine. Lawyer information for him was not immediately available.