The American arrested in Phuket, Thailand on Thursday has allegedly been working as a contract killer, arranging the murders of a number of people since he left the U.S. army in 2004, according to reports.
Joseph Hunter, known as “Rambo”, is accused of recently recruiting four other ex-soldiers from the U.S. and Europe to engage in contract murder conspiracies, one of which was to assassinate a Drug Enforcement Administration agent and an informant, as well as smuggling large volumes of cocaine into the U.S.
Hunter had trained snipers in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars before leaving the army and going rogue, say prosecutors.
After his arrest in Thailand, Hunter was put on a plane to the U.S. where he appeared in a New York City federal court Saturday.
He was charged with conspiracy, attempting to import cocaine, and plotting to kill a law enforcement agent. When asked by the judge for his plea, Hunter said: “Not guilty, sir.”
According to the indictment in court, the men were to get paid nearly a million U.S. dollars for the job, and Hunter was to receive an extra $100,000 for his role as the alleged leader.
“The bone-chilling allegations in today’s indictment read like they were ripped from the pages of a Tom Clancy novel,” said US District Attorney Preet Bharara in a statement. “The charges tell a tale of an international band of mercenary marksmen who enlisted their elite military training to serve as hired guns for evil ends.”
The murder-for-hire conspiracy was a ruse, arranged by undercover DEA agents to stop men they described as “hardened global criminals.”
“Their intent was to commit the most serious and ruthless crime that can be directed against any law enforcement officer,” DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart said.
Authorities said they have audio and video recordings that capture Hunter talking about “bonus jobs” of contract killings, and claiming the men he recruited wanted as much work as possible.
Court papers portrayed the suspects as ex-soldiers eager to kill for money. One was quoted as saying, “That’s fun, actually for me that’s fun. I love this work”.
Authorities said Hunter had already successfully arranged several contract killings in the past. He was captured on tape describing how he had arranged the murders of real estate agents.
When Hunter was arrested in Thailand, he was wearing a t-shirt that read “Springfield Unatheltic Dept” with a picture of “The Simpson’s” character Homer Simpson sleeping on a couch. Image/AP/Sakchai Lalit