Here's an excerpt from Mariano Castillo's article on CNN.com:
"It would have been one of the most audacious plots between a Mexican drug cartel and American conspirators: a murder-for-hire in South Texas. But the men who allegedly were prepared to use their U.S. military training to carry out a mission in Laredo, Texas, for the
Zetas drug cartel were not actually making arrangements with drug traffickers. They had walked into a Drug Enforcement Administration sting operation, and were plotting with undercover agents who recorded their every move for months. Their alleged criminal plans fell apart on Saturday, the day they were to carry out a contract killing. The agents had the evidence they needed and arrested three men in Laredo. A fourth was killed by agents as the arrests were being made. Two more arrests were made in South Carolina. A sixth man also was arrested, the DEA said... There is no evidence the Zetas have considered escalating their reach to include hiring Army-trained Americans to carry out killings. But these arrests show it is not beyond the realm of possibility that there are U.S. citizens willing to do such work. The three men accused of being at the center of the operation -- Kevin Corley, Samuel Walker and Shavar Davis -- had military experience and training they were willing to use on behalf of a drug cartel, prosecutors say... According to the complaint, Corley promised the undercover agents that weapons could be easily stolen from military posts, and that he could train 40 cartel members in two weeks. He mailed an Army tactical book to the agents, the court document says. The investigation appears to have risen to another level when Corley said he could assemble a team to carry out cartel dirty work." Link to Full Article
Analysis: Many of you may remember the plot by a crack team of two Iranian men (and yes, I do say that with some sarcasm) to hire TCO members to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the US in Washington, DC. In both cases, the actual TCO in question was never aware of either plot, and in the first case, we don't know what TCO the DEA was masquerading as. It's plausible they had their informant posing as a member of Los Zetas, but we don't know for sure from publicly available information.
But to me, there are several significant differences in the two cases. The Iranian plot was outlandish at best, scheming to use a drug cartel to conduct a terrorist attack not only on US soil, but in the capital, for the bargain-basement price of $1.5 million. Why a TCO would do the dirty work of a foreign government or a foreign terrorist organization for pocket change was, an is, beyond me. But in this case, we're talking about three African-American, non-Hispanic Americans, all with some level of military training, who were more than willing to do the dirty work on behalf of the cartels on US soil.
It's nothing new that there's a long line of people willing to work for TCOs because of the sheer volume of money, perks, and goodies involved. TCOs rarely have to work too hard to recruit young Mexicans to kill their rivals or snitches in Mexico; many times it only takes a few hundred dollars, or some fancy electronic gadgets. On the US side, however, it's a different story due to the risks involved. US-based gangs like the Mexican Mafia, Texas Syndicate, Hermanos de Pistoleros Latinos, and Mara Salvatrucha are usually the ones tapped for contracted hits or drug distribution. From the article, it doesn't sound like any of the men involved in the sting had any gang ties.
Another thing we have to consider is how realistic the offers of assistance were that the men were making. Is it really that easy to steal weapons from a military post? When I was on active duty, I rarely went into the armory on base, but I know they're usually manned/guarded 24-7. Maybe it's possible if the guard on duty is on the take, but in my eight years of active duty as a Special Agent, I can recall one case of Security Forces reporting that weapons had been stolen or were missing from the armory. Maybe the Army is different about gun counting than the Air Force, but I doubt they're so careless to where someone could say guns were easy to steal from a military post.
Then there's the claim by Corley that he could train 40 cartel members in two weeks. Maybe. But to do what, exactly? He mentioned tactics including approaches, room clearing, security and convoy security. Based on what I know of US military pre-deployment training, this is possible, but would provide only a minimal level of expertise, unless the TCO members being trained were former military or police themselves.
Regardless, the biggest concern stems from the ultimate end of the operation: the men set a date with the undercover DEA agents raid a rival cartel's ranch near Laredo, Texas and recover 20 kilos of stolen cocaine, all on behalf of Los Zetas. Corley arrived in Laredo with his cousin, Jerome Corley, Walker (an active duty Army sergeant) and Davis (a former private in the Army reserves), along with two AR-15 assault rifles, a training rifle, and five allegedly stolen ballistic vests. According to the complaint, "Corley told the undercover agent he had bought 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," per the CNN.com article. It further quotes the complaint as stating that, on the day the supposed hit was to take place, the agents had the four confirm they understood they were about to accept money and drugs in exchange for a killing.
Again, part of me isn't surprised because American gang members have been doing this sort of thing for a while, but it's disturbing in a different way when you hear that active duty and former military members are involved in this sort of thing. It's also out of the realm of what we would assume when thinking about the players involved in drug trafficking and violent TCO activity on this side of the border. It's a stark reminder that no one is immune from the allure of drug money, and no one is beyond suspicion of association with TCOs just because they're not Mexican or Hispanic or a current/former gang member.