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Feds Charge Army Men|in Murder-Drug Sting

LAREDO, Texas (CN) - An Army officer offered to supply guns and training to the Zetas drug cartel and kill rival drug dealers in exchange for money and cocaine, the U.S. Attorney's Office said in announcing the arrest of the officer and five other men.

Kevin Corley, 29, of Colorado Springs, Colo., was arrested Saturday afternoon in Laredo and charged in a drug trafficking conspiracy and murder-for-hire plot, prosecutors said in a statement.

The U.S. Attorney's Office did not state Corley's rank, nor military assignment. But the Colorado Springs Gazette reported on Monday that 1st Lt. Kevin Corley was discharged from the Army this month. The Gazette did not state whether the discharge was honorable, or why he was discharged.

The Gazette reported that Kevin Corley and co-defendant Sgt. Samuel Walker were both assigned to the 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, in Colorado Springs.

Also arrested Saturday in Laredo were Walker, 28; and Shavar Davis, 29, of Denver, Colo., prosecutors said.

Arrested in South Carolina were Marcus Mickle, 20, and Calvin Epps, 26, both of Hopkins, S.C. The sixth defendant, Mario Corley, 40, of Saginaw, Texas, was arrested in Charleston, S.C., according to the U.S. attorney's statement.

"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," prosecutors said in the statement. "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."

Over the next several months, Corley communicated with the undercover agents about the services he could provide the cartel using his military training, prosecutors said.

"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," prosecutors said.

"On Jan. 7, 2012, 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," prosecutors said in the statement.

Corley also offered to provide security for Mickle and Epps to transport 500 pounds of marijuana from Texas to South Carolina, prosecutors said.

"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," according to prosecutors' statement.

"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, 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, 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," prosecutors said in the statement.

On Saturday, Corley, Walker and Davis traveled to Laredo, where they met with undercover agents to discuss the logistics of the contract killing, prosecutors said.

"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," according to prosecutors' statement.

Prosecutors did not identify the man who was killed. The Gazette reported that it was Jerome Corley, whom it described as Kevin Corley's cousin.

The criminal complaint alleges conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 5 kilograms of cocaine, use of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking or violent crime, and conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana, prosecutors said in the statement.

The cocaine conspiracy charge carries a minimum 10-year federal prison sentence and a maximum life sentence and/or a $10 million fine, while the firearm charge carries a maximum 10 years in federal prison, served consecutively with any other sentence.

"Those charged in the indictment for conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana, including [Kevin] Corley, Mickle and Epps, also 5 five to 40 years in prison if convicted," prosecutors said.

Kevin Corley, Walker and Davis are scheduled for a detention hearing Thursday. They are in federal custody in Laredo.

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