The Mexican drug war continues to rage south of the border, and it's drawing in some unlikely participants.
Two U.S. Army soldiers were among three American men busted this week in a drug trafficking sting that targeted one of Mexico's most violent and notorious cartels - the Zetas.
Kevin Corley, 29 (left in photo), and Samuel Walker, 28 (right in photo), both of Colorado Springs, Colorado, were arrested by federal Drug Enforcement agents after a firefight that resulted in the fatal shooting of a third American, Jerome Corley. Jerome and Kevin Corley were cousins.
According to the Daily News, a DEA agent shot Jerome Corley on Saturday in Laredo, Texas, where he was working alongside Kevin Corley and Samuel Walker as the Zetas' hired killers.
Kevin Corley previously served in Afghanistan with the U.S. Army and was discharged on March 13, according to a Pentagon spokeswoman. Walker was an active-duty sergeant stationed at Fort Carson in Denver, Colorado.
As incongruous as the employment arrangement sounds, the Zetas are no strangers to military personnel. Their criminal syndicate was founded by a group of elite Mexican troops that deserted to work on behalf of a Gulf cartel based just south of the Texas border.
Soon after the desertion, the Zetas left the Gulf cartel to begin their own operation that has been classified as well-armed and extremely violent. In the past few years, the Zetas cartel has been responsible for drug trafficking, kidnapping and extortion, according to the Daily News.
The DEA began the sting operation that eventually brought down Walker and the Corleys in January of 2011. Around that time, two men in South Carolina revealed to undercover agents posing as Zetas that Kevin Corley would be able to procure for them illegal automatic weapons for a price.
According to the criminal complaint filed by the DEA, Kevin Corley confessed to undercover agents that he was an Army officer capable of providing a hitman squad to raid a Texas ranch and recover cocaine stolen by a rival cartel. He agreed to enlist the help of his cousin and make good on the murder-for-hire for a one time $50,000 fee and five kilos of blow.
The undercover DEA agents maintained contact with Corley for months, purchasing from him two AR-15 assault rifles, an Airsoft assault rifle and five ballistic vests in the process. The successful operation culminated in Saturday's bloody confrontation and arrests. A larger photo of Samuel Walker: