A former military sniper known as "Rambo" has been sentenced to 20 years behind bars for plotting to kill a Drug Enforcement Administration agent.
Former Army Sgt. Joseph M. Hunter was sentenced on the conspiracy charges Tuesday a in a Manhattan courtroom. In addition to his sentence, the 51-year-old, 20-year veteran will have to serve 10 years of supervised release and will have to pay a $300 special assessment.
"The sentencing of Joseph Hunter, an admitted contract killer, convicted drug trafficker, and ringleader of trained assassins, ends another chapter in a chilling criminal case that spanned the globe," said U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. "Hunter and his cohorts turned from serving their countries as soldiers to becoming mercenaries for hire, plotting to kill a DEA agent and informant and trafficking in massive quantities of cocaine."
At Tuesday's sentencing hearing, Hunter cried as he apologized for his crimes in front of U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain. He had pleaded guilty after his arrest in 2013.
Showing some leniency, the judge credited Hunter for an honorable military career that led to numerous commendations. But she said his "grave and serious" crimes warranted stern punishment.
DEA agents said Hunter recruited the former soldiers by reviewing resumes he received via email.
They said the team worked to obtain weapons for the planned hits, including a sniper rifle, .22-caliber revolvers with silencers, sub-machine guns. In the sting, Hunter allegedly agreed to an $800,000 payment for his team to kill the DEA agent.
Members of the team met with three people they thought were representatives of a Colombian cocaine cartel but were actually undercover informants for the DEA. In June, four members of the team went to the Caribbean to conduct surveillance on an airplane they were told was flying cocaine to the U.S.
Members of the team allegedly met with the undercover informants in Asia to plan how they would kill a DEA agent in Africa and another person they were told was providing information to the U.S. government. Prosecutors say two members of the team flew to Africa to carry out the murder but were arrested there.
The other soldiers in the scheme pleaded guilty to their crimes in 2015 and all but one has been sentenced to prison.