Photo: Kevin Corley and Samuel Walker
Several men have been arrested and charged in a conspiracy related to drug trafficking and/or an attempted murder-for-hire plot two of which are US Military.
The investigation began in January 2011, when Mickle began negotiations with whom he thought were members of the Los Zetas Cartel, actually undercover Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents, to purchase marijuana in return for stolen weapons. The criminal complaint indicates that as they began discussions about the distribution of marijuana in the Columbia, S.C., area, Mickle and Epps allegedly told undercover agents about a friend in the military who could provide military weapons to them. The agents were later introduced to Corley who allegedly identified himself as an active duty officer in the Army responsible for training soldiers. He offered to provide tactical training for cartel members and to purchase weapons for the cartel under his name.
The complaint states that over the next several months, Army 1st Lt. Kevin Corley continued to communicate with undercover agents regarding the services he could provide the cartel as a result of the training, experience and access to information/equipment afforded him as an active duty soldier. According to the criminal complaint, Corley allegedly mailed an Army tactics battle book to the agents, thoroughly explained military tactics and told undercover agents he could train 40 cartel members in two weeks.
On Jan. 7, 2012, Army 1st Lt. Corley traveled to Laredo and met with undercover agents at which time the agents inquired about his ability to perform “wet work,” allegedly understood to mean murder-for-hire, specifically, whether he could provide a team to raid a ranch were 20 kilograms of stolen cocaine were being kept by rival cartel members. Corley confirmed he would conduct the contract killing with a small team, at a minimum comprised of himself and another person who he described as an active duty soldier with whom he had already consulted. According to the complaint, Corley ultimately agreed to $50,000 and five kilograms of cocaine to perform the contract killing and retrieve the 20 kilograms of cocaine and offered to refund the money if the victim survived.
Army 1st Lt.Corley further offered to provide security for Mickle and Epps’ purchase of 500 pounds of marijuana for transport from Texas to South Carolina. He traveled with them to Laredo, where they loaded the marijuana into a tractor trailer and attempted to escort it back to South Carolina. However, the tractor-trailer carrying the load was stopped and seized in La Salle County, Texas, on Jan. 14, 2012. Corley continued to contact undercover agents to discuss the possibility of future transactions with the agents, according to the complaint. Corley allegedly arranged for 300 pounds of marijuana to be delivered to Mario Corley in Charleston, S.C., and allegedly assisted in brokering 500 pounds of marijuana and five kilograms of cocaine for Mickle and Epps and discussed the distribution of these narcotics in South Carolina, Texas and Colorado.
On March 5, 2012, Army 1st Lt.Corley delivered two AR-15 assault rifles with scopes, an airsoft assault rifle, five allegedly stolen ballistic vests and other miscellaneous equipment to an undercover agent in Colorado Springs, Colo., in exchange for $10,000. At the meeting, Army 1st Lt.Corley and the undercover agent allegedly again discussed the contract killing and the retrieval of the cocaine which was to occur on March 24, 2012. Corley allegedly stated he had purchased a new Ka-Bar knife to carve a “Z” into the victim’s chest and was planning on buying a hatchet to dismember the body.
On March 24, 2012, Army 1st Lt. Corley, Sgt. Samuel Walker, and Davis traveled to Laredo and met with undercover agents, at which time they discussed the location of the intended victim, the logistics of performing the contract kill and their respective roles. The three were arrested, during which time a fourth suspect was shot and killed. A subsequent search of the vehicle in which Corley and the other co-conspirators arrived revealed two semi-automatic rifles with scopes, one bolt-action rifle with a scope and bipod, one hatchet, one Ka-Bar knife, one bag of .223 caliber ammunition and one box of .300 caliber ammunition.
The criminal complaint charges conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine and carries a possible punishment of a minimum of 10 years and up to life in prison and/or an $10 million fine. Use of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking or violent crime could result in up to 10 years in prison which is served consecutively to any other prison term imposed. Those charged in the indictment for conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana, including Corley, Mickle and Epps, also face five to 40 years in prison if convicted.
Army 1st Lt. Corley, Sgt. Samuel Walker and Davis are set for a detention hearing on Mar. 29, 2012, at 10:00 a.m. before Judge Song Quiroga. They were all remanded to federal custody pending further criminal proceedings.
The investigation leading to the charges was conducted by the DEA and the FBI with the assistance of U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Roberto Ramirez and Jody Young.
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