Former U.S. Army Officer Hitman Sentenced in Murder-for-Hire Plot
|U.S. Attorney’s Office September 18, 2013|
LAREDO, TX—Kevin Corley, 30, the convicted “hitman” involved in a murder-for-hire plot and drug conspiracy, has been ordered to federal prison for 13 years, announced United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson.
Corley, of Columbia, South Carolina, pleaded guilty last September to conspiracy to commit murder for hire, conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and marijuana, and for possessing a firearm during in and in relation to a crime of violence. He is the last of seven co-defendants to be sentenced in a conspiracy involving some of the defendants in murder-for-hire and all of them in a drug trafficking conspiracy.
Today, Senior U.S. District Judge George P. Kazen handed Corley 96 months for the conspiracy charges and a consecutive sentence of 60 months for the use of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime for a total of 13 years in federal prison. He was also ordered to pay a $5,000 fine. In pronouncing the sentence, Judge Kazen noted that although Corley became the leader in the overall conspiracy by getting the team together, selling armored vests, purchasing assault rifles, and giving them to undercover agents, he ultimately took responsibility by pleading guilty and assisted in the convictions of others as a very effective witness at trial.
Samuel Walker, 29, also a former U.S. Army soldier of Sharon, Mississippi, and Calvin Epps, 29, of Hopkins, South Carolina, were convicted following the jury trial in which Corley testified. The remaining four—Marcus Mickle, 21, and Robert Corley, 24, both of Columbia, South Carolina; Shavar Davis, 30, of Denver, Colorado; and Mario Corley, 41, of Saginaw, Texas—all pleaded guilty and have been sentenced to terms ranging from 30 months to 15 years in prison for their roles in the overall conspiracy.
The investigation began in January 2011, when Mickle began negotiations with persons 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. According to the testimony of DEA agents, the discussions concerned the distribution of marijuana in the Columbia, South Carolina area and how Mickle and Epps told undercover agents about a friend in the military who could provide military weapons to them. The agents were later introduced to Kevin Corley who identified himself as an active duty officer in the army responsible for training soldiers. According to the agents’ testimony, Kevin Corley offered to provide tactical training for cartel members and to purchase weapons for the cartel.
Over the next several months, 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 and equipment items afforded him as an active duty soldier.
On January 7, 2012, Kevin Corley traveled to Laredo and met with undercover agents. During this meeting, he claimed he could raid a ranch located at or near Laredo containing 20 kilograms of cocaine and conduct a contract killing there. Kevin Corley proposed a $50,000 fee for this work but stated he would need to bring his own team. After further negotiation, Kevin Corley stated he would accept a $50,000 fee and five kilograms of cocaine.
During March 2012, Kevin Corley allegedly arranged for 300 pounds of marijuana to be delivered to Mario Corley in Charleston, South Carolina. Kevin Corley also assisted in brokering 500 pounds of marijuana and five kilograms of cocaine for Mickle and Epps and discussed with agents the distribution of these narcotics in South Carolina, Texas, and Colorado.
Agents testified that on March 5, 2012, Kevin 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, Colorado, in exchange for $10,000. At the meeting, Kevin Corley and the undercover agent again discussed the contract killing and the retrieval of the cocaine which was to occur on March 24, 2012. Kevin Corley 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. He further told agents he had discussed the plan with Walker, that Walker was going to be a part of the team that would come to Texas to commit the murder for hire and that he and Walker had gone to the rifle range and test-fired Walker’s scoped rifle.
On March 24, 2012, Kevin Corley, 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. Walker said he could hit the intended victim from more than two football fields away with his rifle. Immediately thereafter, 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 .300 Caliber Weatherby Magnum 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. During the trial, Kevin Corley testified that the .300 caliber Weatherby Magnum rifle and ammunition belonged to Walker and that Walker was supposed to take the long-distance shot at the intended victim with this weapon.
Meanwhile, also on March 24, 2012, undercover agents met with Epps and Mickle in Columbia, South Carolina, at a motel parking lot. During this meeting, Epps and Mickle discussed with the undercover agent the pre-arranged purchase of five kilograms of cocaine and 500 pounds of marijuana for which Epps and Mickle were supposed to provide $50,000 as an initial payment. During the meeting, Epps and Mickle were arrested. Epps had a loaded Raven Arms Model MP-25 handgun in his right cargo pants pocket, while Mickle had a loaded Springfield Armory XD-40 handgun in the right side waistband of his pants, as well as a loaded spare magazine.
On this same date, Mario Corley, having traveled from Texas to Columbia, South Carolina, to pick up Robert Corley, proceeded to Summerville, South Carolina (near Charleston), to meet with persons whom Mario and Robert Corley believed would provide them with 300 pounds of marijuana. Robert Corley admitted to making an agreement with Mario Corley to go to Charleston to pick up “a bunch of weed” and test the quality of the marijuana, in addition to helping Mario Corley load the bundles of marijuana into Mario Corley’s white van. At the time of his plea, Robert Corley stated he was expected to be paid a pound of marijuana from Mario Corley.
Kevin Corley was permitted to voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
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.