Seven men, including three from South Carolina, face charges in connection with a bizarre murder-for-hire plot that included current and former military personnel who believed they were aiding a drug cartel.
Federal officials on Friday announced a five-count indictment against those men: 23-year-old Robert Corley of Columbia; 26-year-old Calvin Epps and 20-year-old Marcus Mickle of Hopkins; 29-year-old Kevin Corley and Samuel Walker, age unavailable, of Colorado Springs, Colo.; 29-year-old Shavar Davis of Denver; and 40-year-old Mario Corley of Saginaw, Texas. One of their alleged co-conspirators died during the bust.
The indictment alleges that the men, except Robert Corley, conspired to commit murder for hire in exchange for $50,000 in cash and 5 kilograms of cocaine. They made a deal in southern Texas but planned to pick up 300 pounds of marijuana in Summerville at the Pilot gas station just off Interstate 26, court filings say.
Prosecutors say federal agents first began investigating the group they called the Kevin Corley Drug Trafficking Organization in January, after Mickle began negotiations with men he believed were members of Los Zetas, a violent Mexican drug cartel. The “cartel members,” actually undercover Drug Enforcement Administration agents, agreed to trade stolen weapons for marijuana, prosecutors said.
Mickle and Epps told the undercover agents about a friend in the military who could get weapons, according to prosecutors. The agents later met Kevin Corley, who identified himself as an Army officer who trained soldiers.
Corley, an Irmo native, played football at S.C. State University before his Army career. An official in the public affairs office at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs said Corley, a first lieutenant in the Army, was discharged in March.
She also confirmed that Sgt. Samuel Walker, another man named in the criminal complaint, remained enlisted in the same unit where Corley served.
Corley mailed an Army tactics book to the undercover agents posing as Zetas, according to prosecutors, and promised to train 40 members of the cartel in two weeks. Corley traveled to Laredo, Texas, where undercover agents asked him about murder-for-hire work, prosecutors said, and a raid at a ranch where rival cartel members had stashed 20 kilograms of cocaine.
Corley agreed to take the job at a cost of $50,000 and 5 kilograms of cocaine, according to prosecutors. Officials said Corley guaranteed a refund if the target survived.
Agents moved to arrest Corley, Walker, Davis and Corley’s cousin, Jerome Corley, during the meeting in Texas on March 24. One of the agents shot Jerome Corley multiple times in the process, according to a complaint.
Jerome Corley arrived at a nearby hospital already dead from his wounds.
That same day, agents met Mickle and Epps at a Columbia motel parking lot to discuss a drug deal, according to the indictment. Down I-26 in Summerville, other agents met with Mario and Robert Corley at a restaurant.
Robert Corley said he came to test the marijuana that Mario Corley planned to pick up, the indictment said.
All seven men face charges of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine and 100 kilograms or more of marijuana and face 10 years to life in prison and a fine of $10 million, if convicted. All men except Robert Corley face charges of conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire, which carries a 10-year sentence and a $250,000 fine, and two gun charges, which carry sentences of 10 years to life and a $250,000 fine, and 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Kevin Corley, Epps and Mickle also face charges of possession with intent to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana. They each face an additional five to 40 years in prison and a $5 million fine, if convicted.
Reach Allyson Bird at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/allysonjbird.