WASHINGTON, March 26, 2012 -- The accusations read like something from a summer action flick.
The plot: members of one cartel plan to raid another cartel taking their drugs and killing their rivals.
But this story has an unusual twist, because it involves a lieutenant in the U.S. Army who was allegedly willing to work with drug runners and to execute a murder-for-hire plot.
The Justice Department today announced charges against Kevin D. Corley, who, during much of the alleged plot, was a first lieutenant in the Army and a veteran of the war in Afghanistan.
Federal prosecutors say they became aware of Corley in January 2011 after an associate of his allegedly told DEA agents posing as members of the Los Zetas Cartel "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," a Justice Department release said. "He offered to provide tactical training for cartel members and to purchase weapons for the cartel under his name."
Authorities claim Corley began to discuss military tactics and even mailed operatives an official Army book on the subject. He allegedly said that for a fee he could could train 40 cartel members in two weeks.
The topic then supposedly turned to the subject of a plan to "raid a ranch where 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," prosecutors say.
According to the complaint, Corley agreed to perform the contract killing and retrieve the 20 kilograms of cocaine in exchange for $50,000 and five kilograms of cocaine. He allegedly offered to refund the money if the victim survived and agreed to provide security for marijuana shipments in the United States.
"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, in exchange for $10,000," prosecutors said in a statement.
"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," the complaint said. "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."
The story ends on March 24, when Corley and two other suspects allegedly 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, agents say.
The three are charged with conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine; use of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking or violent crime; and conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana.