A former sergeant in the U.S. Army was indicted for allegedly assembling a team of former soldiers to conduct assassinations, including a DEA agent and an informant, for a drug trafficking organization, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara announced Friday.
Joseph Hunter, also known as “Frank Robinson,” “Jim Riker” and “Rambo,” allegedly acted as a “contract killer” since 2004 and “succeeded in the arranging for the murder of a number of people,” according to an indictment unsealed Friday in Manhattan federal court.
“The bone-chilling allegations in today's Indictment read like they were ripped from the pages of a Tom Clancy novel,” Bharara said 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. Three of the defendants were ready, willing and eager to take cold hard cash to commit the cold-blooded murders of a DEA agent and an informant. Thanks to the determined, skillful and intrepid efforts of the DEA's Special Operations Division, an international hit team has been neutralized by agents working on four continents.”
In 2012 and 2013, Hunter allegedly recruited four former soldiers -- Dennis Gogel, Slawomir Soborski, Michael Filter, and Timothy Vamvakias -- to conduct counter-surveillance, security, murder-for-hire and drug trafficking operations for an unnamed drug trafficking organization, according to the indictment. Three of the soldiers were in foreign militaries; Gogel and Filter were in Germany’s military and Soborski was in the Polish armed forces. Vamvakias was a sergeant in the U.S. Army.
Hunter passed along the ex-soldiers’ resumes to two people who said they were Colombian drug traffickers but turned out to be confidential DEA sources, according to the indictment.
In March 2013, Hunter and his team went to an unnamed Asian country and met with the sources, where they discussed security work for the drug organization as well as contract killings. The team then conducted surveillance to find out whether local police knew about a boat containing illegal goods.
A month later, Gogel, Filter and Soborski met one of the sources in an unnamed African country, where they were asked to provide securities for a meeting about a narcotics deal attended by members of an Eastern European drug trafficking organization and to provide surveillance for a weapons deal, the indictment alleged.
Vamvakias was added to the team in May 2013, when he was introduced by Hunter to a purported member of a Colombian drug trafficking organization but turned out to be a confidential DEA source.
Hunter was asked in an email whether his team would be willing to murder a DEA agent and a boat captain suspected of informing for the agency. The former U.S. Army sergeant allegedly responded, “My guys will handle it … Are you talking about both the captain and the agent or just the captain?” After being told his team had the option of killing both or just the informant, Hunter allegedly said his team “will handle both jobs. They just need good tools.”
In June 2013, the team allegedly headed to the Caribbean to provide surveillance for a plane carrying 300 kilos of cocaine that was being shipped to New York. After the team gave a confidential DEA source photographs of the plane, the source gave Hunter and the other mercenaries another job -- “to kill a U.S. DEA agent and a source with the DEA,” who were in Africa, according to the indictment. The group allegedly sent the source plans on how to kill the agent and informant. While the group traveled to an unnamed African country to commit the murders, the killings were never carried out.