Feds: Former Army sergeant conspired in drug trade, led team of ‘hired guns’

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New York (CNN) — A former Army sergeant is facing conspiracy charges in a federal sting operation that focused on a team he allegedly supervised in what the team thought was international drug trafficking and planned killings, according to the U.S. attorney in Manhattan.

Joseph Hunter, 48, led a “security team” of former soldiers from around the world to assist people he believed were Colombian narcotic traffickers, federal authorities allege. In fact, the “traffickers” were U.S. informants, according to federal authorities.

Hunter, along with Timothy Vamvakias, 42, an American who also served in the U.S. Army; Dennis Gogel, 27, a German national who served in the German armed forces; and two other men acted as the security team that surveyed the transportation of what they believed to be illegal drugs by Colombian dealers. The men acted as “contract killers” who planned to eliminate anyone who threatened the drug trade — including law enforcement agents, a press release from the U.S. attorney’s office said.

Specifically, authorities said in a Friday news release that the men planned an assassination in Liberia “for a six-figure payday,” targeting a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent and a person purportedly cooperating with the DEA. The killings apparently never took place.

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