Mexican cartels are looking to recruit U.S. soldiers to carry out contract killings.
In April a leaked FBI confidential bulletin revealed that the Los Zetas cartel, which was founded by former elite Mexican troops, has been vigorously expanding its U.S. connections for years by collaborating with U.S. gangs in drug dealing and enforcement activities on both sides of the border.
But the recruitment of U.S. soldiers for the sole purpose of knocking people off is a disturbing trend, especially given how much sense it makes.
On July 25 an El Paso, Texas court handed down a life sentence to Army private first-class Michael Apodaca, 22, after he admitted to being recruited and paid $5,000 by the Juarez Cartel to shoot and kill Jose Daniel Gonzalez-Galeana, a cartel member who had been outed as an informant for U.S. customs.
Apodaca, who was stationed at nearby Fort Bliss and was attached to the 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, performed the hit on May 15, 2009, in the border town. And it seems that some soldiers are ready and willing.
In September Kevin Corley, 29, a former active-duty Army first lieutenant from Fort Carson in Colorado, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire for DEA agents posing as Los Zetas members in a Laredo, Texas federal court.
Corley also sold two AR-15 assault rifles and five stolen ballistic vests, along with other equipment to DEA agents in Colorado Springs, according to Reuters, and even discussed stealing weapons from military posts and teaching military tactics at one point.
Then, on December 23, 2011, he agreed to perform a contract killing for the cartel in exchange for $50,000 and cocaine, according to the plea agreement.
Also arrested in connection to the case was former Army Sgt. Samuel Walker, 28, who was convicted of committing a hit in November 2012 and sentenced to 15 years in prison on June 21.
Walker served in Afghanistan with Corley’s 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 4th Infantry Division platoon between 2010-2011. Shortly after their return, the two men made contact with the undercover DEA agent.
The temptation for returning soldiers to leverage their killing skills for money — Joseph Kolb of Fox News notes that Apodaca’s fee for killing Galaena was nearly three times his monthly pay — has U.S. authorities concerned, especially when some gets whacked with military precision.
One such case occurred on May 22 when Juan Guerrero-Chapa, 43, a former lawyer for the Gulf Cartel, was murdered in a mall parking lot in an affluent suburb of Fort Worth.
“I would be asking the question — if military was involved — if I was leading the investigation based on the [Modus Operandi], geography and precision,” an unnamed expert on Mexican cartels said.
“I don't have any information to confirm, but we know that a hit team came in and out and there was also a stand-alone recon team.”