A former Army sergeant nicknamed “Rambo” pleaded not guilty Saturday in a New York federal court to charges that he recruited other former soldiers in an alleged murder-for-hire plot to kill a federal officer and import cocaine, according to The Associated Press.
Joseph “Rambo” Hunter, 48, was arrested this week in Phuket, Thailand, and appeared in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on Saturday to face the charges. When asked by U.S. Magistrate Judge Frank Maas about his plea, Hunter responded, “Not guilty, sir,” according to the AP.
Hunter served in the Army from 1983 to 2004 before becoming a “contract killer,” arranging for the murders of several people, according to a 37-page indictment unsealed Friday.
“The charges tell a tale of an international band of mercenary marksmen who enlisted their elite military training to serve as hired guns for evil ends,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement on Friday. “Three of the defendants were ready, willing and eager to take cold hard cash to commit the cold-blooded murders of a DEA agent and an informant.”
Confidential Drug Enforcement Administration sources posed as members of a Colombian drug-trafficking operation in May and hired Hunter and his team of four men as security, according to the indictment.
When the sources asked Hunter if his team was willing to take on a “bonus job” in the form of assassinating a DEA officer and a DEA informant, Hunter responded in an email, “My guys are on it,” according to the indictment.
Hunter enlisted two other former soldiers in the assassination plot, Dennis Gogel, 27, a German armed forces corporal and sniper, and Timothy Vamvakias, 42, a former U.S. army sergeant. Altogether, the group was to receive $700,000 with Hunter receiving an extra $100,000 for his leadership role. Gogel and Vamvakias were arrested in Liberia earlier this week.
The other two men involved in the alleged drug-trafficking plot -- former German armed forces sniper Michael Filter, 29, and former Polish armed forces sniper and counter-terrorism expert Slawomir Soborski, 40 -- were arrested this week in Estonia.
NBC News' Tracy Connor contributed to this report. The Associated Press also contributed.