Verdict Returned Against Two Remaining Defendants in Murder-for-Hire and Drug Trafficking Conspiracy
|Nov. 1, 2012|
LAREDO, Texas - Samuel Walker, 29, an active duty member of the U.S. Army, of Colorado Springs, Colo., and Calvin Epps, aka Beef, 28, of Hopkins, S.C., have been found guilty on a variety of charges in relation to a murder-for-hire and drug trafficking conspiracy, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. A Laredo federal jury returned the verdicts after approximately 11 hours of deliberation and seven days of trial.
Walker was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire, while Epps was found guilty of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and marijuana and possessing with intent to distribute marijuana in excess of 100 kilograms. Both were also found guilty of carrying and possessing a firearm in relation to and in furtherance of a crime.
According to evidence presented at trial, Epps initiated a conspiracy on Sept. 14, 2011, when he traveled to Laredo with Marcus Mickle in order to meet with undercover Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents posing as Mexican cartel marijuana and cocaine brokers. During that meeting, Epps and Mickle asked to be supplied with 500 pounds of marijuana to be shipped at a future date. In exchange, they would use the proceeds to purchase semiautomatic assault weapons. Towards the close of the meeting, Epps told the agents he had a friend in the Army infantry who had served in Afghanistan, who could provide military grade weapons. Agents were later introduced to Kevin Corley over a telephone conference, who identified himself as someone who could provide military tactics training to the Cartel members.
Over the course of the next three months, Corley continued to talk with the agents and in one conversation asked, “are you talking about wetwork?” Corley, who pleaded guilty in advance of trial, testified that wetwork meant murder-for-hire. Corley also testified he had met Walker in a bar in Colorado Springs shortly thereafter and told Walker that an offer to do “wetwork” was “on the table.” Corley testified that Walker told him to ask for $50,000 as a fee at the going rate. In a later phone conversation, Corley stated he was already putting a team together and had talked to a sergeant with who he had served in Afghanistan who was a “better shot” than he was.
On Jan. 7, 2012, former Army officer Corley traveled from his base in Fort Carson, Colo., to Laredo to meet with another undercover officer posing as a big Mexican Cartel boss. During this meeting, the agent asked Corley if he was willing to go to nearby ranch and kill a man who had stolen cocaine from him. Corley agreed and contended Walker could be on the team because he had done wetwork before. Shortly after leaving Laredo, Corley testified he called Walker in Colorado Springs and reminded him about their earlier conversation in the bar and that it was now a reality. Corley testified he later met with Walker and told him about the proposed cocaine recovery and the killing of the man who stole it. According to Corley, Walker agreed at the meeting.
On Jan. 14, 2012, Corley returned to Laredo accompanied by Epps and Mickle. The undercover agent testified it was time to make good on the promised shipment of 500 pounds of marijuana to Epps and Mickle. The marijuana was loaded but they were stopped by prearrangement with DEA and La Salle County and the marijuana seized. Epps was upset about losing the load and demanded the undercover agent send another truck, but they said no. Corley asked if he did the “job,” could they send another truck. Corley testified that he recognized that he was collateral and bargained to facilitate another load for Epps in exchange for Corley doing the “job,” code for murder-for-hire.
On March 5, 2012, Epps wired $1,300 to Corley who then purchased two assault weapons and gave them to the “cartel boss” as collateral for the marijuana load.
The contract kill was set for March 24. That morning, Corley, Walker and others drove to a warehouse in Laredo and met with undercover agents. While there, Corley and Walker detailed how they would approach the unnamed intended victim at which time Walker said, “Yeah, that’ll be too easy. If I have a clear shot.” Soon thereafter, the arrest team entered and arrested the men. Testimony revealed that Walker later confessed the details of the murder-for-hire and that he expected to be paid $40,000.
Also, on March 24, a DEA agent met Epps and Mickle in Columbia, S.C., at a hotel parking lot. Epps and Mickle were coming to pick up 500 pounds of marijuana and five kilograms of cocaine. In exchange, they were to provide $50,000. After an initial conversation in which Epps stated that the man with the money is “in the country,” meaning a remote area, Epps and Mickle were arrested.
Walker’s defense was that he was not told of he real reasons they were traveling to Laredo on that fateful day and pointed to his nine-year military career. Epps contended that, while he was dealing in marijuana, the cocaine was a separate deal for Mickle. Epps also contended he wasn’t in on the murder-for-hire and that the gun he carried was to protect the money he thought he would be carrying after selling tickets to his birthday party.
Seven men were ultimately charged with varying offenses in relation to this case. Corley, 29, a former active duty officer in the U.S. Army, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire, conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and marijuana and use and carrying of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. Shavar Davis, 29, of Denver, Colo., pleaded guilty to the marijuana and cocaine conspiracy as well as conspiracy to commit murder for hire. Mario Corley, 40, of Saginaw, Texas, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine in excess of five kilograms and marijuana in excess of 100 kilograms as did Mickle, aka Junior, 21, of Hopkins, S.C. Mickle also entered a plea to possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. Robert Corley, 23, of Columbia, S.C., pleaded guilty to a separate superseding criminal information which charged him with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana in excess of 100 kilograms. Robert and Mario Corley were convicted Aug. 28, 2012, while Mickle entered his plea Sept. 4.
U.S. District Judge George P. Kazen, who presided over the trial, has not yet set a sentencing date. Walker faces a maximum punishment of 10 years for the murder-for-hire conspiracy with a mandatory minimum consecutive sentence of five years to a maximum of life for the firearm count plus a $250,000 fine. Epps is facing a minimum of 10 years to a maximum of life for the drug conspiracy plus a mandatory minimum consecutive sentence of five years to a maximum of life for the firearms count plus a $10 million fine. In addition, Epps is facing a minimum of five to a maximum of 40 years for the possession of marijuana conviction plus a $5 million fine.
The investigation leading to the charges was conducted by the DEA, FBI, and ATF with the assistance of U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Roberto Ramirez and Jody Young.