The mercenaries had gathered in Phuket, a tropical resort island off the west coast of Thailand, to discuss a job. They were supposed to safeguard 300 kilos of Colombian cocaine on its way from the Bahamas to New York and kill two people: One a DEA agent, the other his snitch, a ship’s captain who was leaking information about drug loads. Joseph Hunter, a burly former US Army drill sergeant nicknamed Rambo, briefed them on the assignment.
“It’s just like a military mission,” Hunter told the men, four ex-snipers from the US, German, and Polish armed forces. “This is real shit. You know, you see everything. You see James Bond in the movie and you’re saying, ‘Oh, I can do that.’ Well, you’re gonna do it now. Everything you see, or you’ve thought about, you’re gonna do.”
Hunter made sure the men knew what they were getting into, warning them about the consequences of stealing from their new employer.
“If you steal money,” he said, “they’re gonna kill you.”
The problem, Hunter explained, was that there were always people in their line of work who got greedy. He’d heard guys promise not to steal before, only for them to find a pile of cash and give into the impulse to take it and disappear.
“If they don’t find you, they’re gonna get your family,” Hunter said. “They’re gonna get your children, your mother, your father. I don’t know. Whoever they can get, they’re gonna get. ‘Cause yeah, you might be able to run and you might be able to hide, but they’re gonna get somebody. Everybody says that [they won’t steal] and a lot of people steal fucking money. When you’re standing there with a fucking million dollars, you’re like, ‘I can just take this million dollars and go away.'”
To hammer home the point, Hunter told them stories: How he’d once shot a guy in the hand, waterboarded another, and thrown a third overboard at sea to recover stolen money. He bragged about how easy it was to get away with murder in Africa. “It’s not like CSI,” he joked. “They don’t have all that shit.” Sometimes, instead of killing, his boss just set people up for prison. He’d done it before in the Philippines, where they had cops on their payroll.
“My boss, he doesn’t kill everybody, because it’s just not worth the trouble sometimes,” Hunter said. “But if you take, he does kill people.”
What Hunter didn’t know at that moment was that his boss had sold him out. With his help, the DEA was listening in on the conversation. US agents and Thai authorities had rigged the Phuket house with video and audio recording equipment. The Colombian drug lords who had offered Hunter the job were really undercover DEA operatives posing as narcos. The cocaine shipment and double-murder plot were pure fiction, part of an elaborate sting operation.
Hunter pleaded guilty in February 2015 to drug, weapons, and murder-for-hire charges. He is scheduled to be sentenced May 16 in federal court in Manhattan — sentencing has already been pushed back on several occasions — where he faces a minimum of 10 years in prison.
But while Hunter will be locked up for at least the next decade, the situation with his boss — the man supposedly calling the shots on those kidnappings and murders Hunter boasted about — remains something of a mystery.
Read the Remainder of the Crazy True Story at Vice News