April 5, 2012
In case you missed it this week, an Afghan War veteran and one other active duty serviceman – along with multiple accomplices, were indicted for their involvement in a year-long federal agency sting. This particular story reads like a supermarket aisle fantasy novel… if only it were.
A gang which included US soldiers allegedly offered ‘wet-work’ murder-for-hire services, narcotics trafficking and stolen US military weapons to undercover Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents… posing as foot soldiers for Mexico’s notorious Los Zetas drug cartel.
Following the conclusion of a year long sting which ended in Laredo Texas, Kevin Corley, a 29 year old formerly active US Army Drill Seargent and Afghan veteran from Fort Carson, active duty soldier Samuel Walker, 28, both of Colorado Springs, CO, and Shavar Davis, 29, of Denver, CO, while two other men – Marcus Mickle, 20, and Calvin Epps, 26 have been arrested and charged in a conspiracy related to drug trafficking and attempted murder. A sixth man, Mario Corley, 40, from Saginaw, Texas, was also arrested in Charleston, S.C. as part of the same investigation.
During the arrest on last Saturday, another man, Jerome Corley was fatally shot.
The federal sting started back in January 2011, when Mr. Mickle entered negotiations with what he thought were members of the Lot Zetas Cartel, in order to purchase marijuana in return for stolen weapons.
(From left, Kevin Corley, Shavar Davis and Samuel Walker)
Mickle and Epps, first tried to organize the drugs shipment with the undercover agents, but are said to have brought Kevin Corley in after agents inquired about arms.
Corley later provided security for a 500 lb shipment of marijuana trucked from Texas to South Carolina, according to the complaint.
Kevin Corley traveled to Laredo on Jan. 7, to meet with undercover DEA agents and discuss the murder-for-hire scheme, where, according to the official complaint filing (PDF), “Kevin Corley proposed a $50,000 fee to perform the contract killing and retrieve the 20 kilograms of cocaine, and Kevin Corley offered to refund the money if the victim survived… also told the agents he would accept cocaine in lieu of the fee for his service, but ultimately agreed to accept $50,000 and five kilograms of cocaine for a full team.”
In addition, Kevin Corley offered to provide full combat training for 40 cartel members in just two weeks. The Army soldier explained that an array of military weapons could be easily stolen from army posts. According to the complaint document, Corley also “offered to provide tactical training for cartel members, including approaches, room clearing, security, and convoy security. Kevin Corley also offered to purchase weapons for the cartel under his name as long as he could destroy serial numbers.”
So we have Kevin Corley leading a US Military hit-squad for the DEA’s faux Zetas, and later conspiring to supplying drugs to these same Zetas.
A few interesting questions remain regarding this latest bizarre operation:
One of the unanswered questions here is why Kevin Corley and Walker was discharged from duty right before their unit were due to be deployed to Afghanistan. According to an earlier AP/Huff Post report:
Kevin Corley was discharged from the Army on March 13, according to the Army Human Resources Command. Fort Carson officials said Walker is on active duty, and that both men were assigned to the 4th Brigade Combat Team, part of the 4th Infantry Division.More importantly, however, is the question of how Sgt. Corley and his gang were able to organize a 500 lb truck load of marijuana for his undercover DEA associates. The gang’s truck load containing their consignment of marijuana was pulled over and seized by federal agents in mid-January. Kevin Corley, Jerome Corley and Epps were driving in the vehicle ahead of the shipment, but were not pulled over.
Fort Carson didn’t know the circumstances of Corley’s discharge, and the Army Human Resources Command declined to provide details. The 4th Brigade began deploying to Afghanistan in mid-February, though it wasn’t immediately known whether Walker or Corley had been expected to be part of that deployment.
Faster and More Furious?
It is within these very kind of operations where Congress has raised the same concern over a gun-smuggling operation known as Fast and Furious, in which agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives(under the direction of the US Department of Justice) allowed suspected smugglers to buy and transport some 30,000 guns across the Mexican border- an operation which eventually led to the death of at least one American Border Patrol agent who was shot to death by Mexican drug cartel gunman, but who really knows how many lives those 30,000+ guns claimed after they were shipped into Mexico via the US federal government.
Corley’s initial truck load of marijuana is said to have been apprehended in South Carolina, but oddly, this set-back which would normally amount to a huge loss in terms of the street value of the drugs lost, did not seem to deter Corley and his gang from continuing to be strung along by the DEA as their sting continued. Despite the seizure, the official complaint alleges that Kevin Corley continued trying to arrange for marijuana shipments in February and March to his accomplice Mario Corley in South Carolina.
One might ask: how could a couple of Afghan soldiers might get a hold of 500 lbs haul of drugs? Possibly Mexico. But Mexico is one of the world’s top marijuana producers…
It might be worth some consideration here that according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Afghanistan is now the world’s largest cannabis producer, surpassing Morocco. It’s well known already that Afghanistan is the world’s largest opium poppy producer as well, supplying more than 90% of the illicit global market for opium and heroin – and that the US military and the CIA, are known to play a pivotal role in facilitating both the production and export side of this lucrative product.
Not that the war zone drug cultivation business is any real surprise to readers who have been following developments in Afghanistan. Still though, it remains one of the most hush-hush subjects, and one which will rarely appear in the spotlight.
Opium production used to be down to almost zero under the Taliban, pre-2001. After the U.S. and UK forces invaded, production picked up exponentially from around 700 tons in 2001, to about 8,000 tons in 2008, for a profit in the region of $500 billion. So by now, in 2012, few can argue against the reality that there exists a genuine link between the War on Terror and the War on Drugs.
U.S. Army soldiers have been growers and guards of the poppy fields in Afghanistan, assisting banks who launder billions and support war lords like Whalid Karzai maintain control of the business there.
As author Michel Chossudovsky explains in his 2007 article on the drugs trade,“The Golden Crescent drug trade, launched by the CIA in the early 1980s, continues to be protected by US intelligence, in liaison with NATO occupation forces and the British military. In recent developments, British occupation forces have promoted opium cultivation through paid radio advertisements.”
Only last month, national reports exposed the likelihood that US forces had recently handed over much of this regional drug-mule work to the Afghan Air Force (AAF), which was established largely with American funds, using their airplanes to transport drugs.
The other protagonist disguised as Los Zetas, the DEA, are by no means above the fray here, as they also have a history of profiting from the very drug trade they are meant to be curtailing, as the New York Times reported in as recently as last year:
“Undercover American narcotics agents have laundered or smuggled millions of dollars in drug proceeds as part of Washington’s expanding role in Mexico’s fight against drug cartels, according to current and former federal law enforcement officials.”
Corley’s 4th Brigade Combat Team is part of the 4th Infantry Division – a unique division where unit are organized in 3-year life cycles, designed to enhance ’predictability’ for members of the unit. Certainly, it would be within this very environment that soldiers inclined towards entrepreneurship could forge strong relationship, and links – even illicit ones.
Far-fetched? Perhaps. But on its face, this federal case involving arms, drugs and active duty US soldiers - is no ordinary one.
And neither is the war in Afghanistan.