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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, March 7, 2019

Third Mercenary Sentenced To Life In Prison For Conspiring To Kidnap And Murder As Part Of A Murder-For-Hire Scheme Overseas

Former Soldier, Joseph Hunter, Enlisted Co-Conspirators to Kill a Woman in the Philippines By Shooting Her Multiple Times in the Face

Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that JOSEPH MANUEL HUNTER was sentenced to life in prison in connection with his participation in the murder of a woman in the Philippines.  HUNTER and his co-defendants, Adam Samia and Carl David Stillwell, were convicted on April 18, 2018, following a 12-day trial before U.S. District Judge Ronnie Abrams of the Southern District of New York.  Judge Abrams sentenced HUNTER today and had previously sentenced both Stillwell and Samia to mandatory life terms. 

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “With zero regard for human life, Joseph Hunter callously helped to arrange the murder of a Filipino woman in exchange for money.  He and his co-defendants have now been sentenced to life behind bars for their heartless crimes.”

According to the Superseding Indictment against HUNTER, Samia, and Stillwell, other filings in Manhattan federal court, and the evidence admitted at trial:

HUNTER served from 1983 to 2004 in the U.S. Army, where he attained the rank of sergeant first class.  While in the Army, HUNTER led air-assault and airborne infantry squads; served as a sniper instructor; and trained soldiers in marksmanship and tactics as a senior drill sergeant.  Since leaving the Army in 2004, HUNTER arranged for the murders of multiple victims in exchange for money, among other completed acts of violence undertaken for pay. 

Samia was a self-described “Personal Protection/Security Industry” professional.  According to Samia’s résumé, he worked as an “Independent Contractor” for clients in the Philippines, China, Papua New Guinea, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Republic of the Congo; and had training in tactics and weapons, including handguns, shotguns, rifles, sniper rifles, and machineguns.  Stillwell also purported to have training and experience in the field of information technology and to have worked at a firm in North Carolina that provides firearms training.

In 2011 and 2012, HUNTER, Samia, and Stillwell agreed to commit murders-for-hire in overseas locations in exchange for salaries and bonus payments for each victim.  In early 2012, Samia and Stillwell traveled from North Carolina to the Philippines, where HUNTER provided them with, among other things, information about their intended victims and firearms to use to commit the murders. 

In January and February 2012, Samia and Stillwell surveilled their intended victims in the Philippines as they formulated their murder plans.  On February 12, 2012, Samia and Stillwell killed one of their intended victims – a Filipino woman – in the Philippines by shooting her multiple times in the face (“Victim-1”).  After killing Victim-1, Samia and Stillwell disposed of her body on a pile of garbage, where it was later found by local authorities.  HUNTER paid Samia and Stillwell $35,000 each for completing the murder, and Samia and Stillwell sent thousands of dollars from the payments they received to the United States using, among other methods, structured wire transfers in amounts under $10,000. 

In late February and early March 2012, Samia and Stillwell returned from the Philippines to North Carolina, where they continued to reside until their July 2015 arrests on these charges.

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HUNTER, 53, of Owensboro, Kentucky, Samia, 44, of Roxboro, North Carolina, and Stillwell, 51, of Roxboro, North Carolina, were each convicted of one count of conspiring to commit murder-for-hire and one count of committing murder-for-hire, each of which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison and mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison; and one count of conspiring to murder and kidnap in a foreign country and one count of using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, each of which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.  Samia and Stillwell were also each convicted of conspiring to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.  

The charges against the defendants were the result of the close cooperative efforts of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York; DEA’s Special Operations Division, Bilateral Investigations Unit; DEA’s Manila Country Office; DEA’s Atlanta Field Division, Raleigh Resident Office; DEA’s Louisville Field Division; the Durham Police Department; the Raleigh Police Department; the Harnett County Sherriff’s Office; the Wake County Sherriff’s Office; the Person County Sherriff’s Office; the Cary Police Department; the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigations; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Greensboro Field Office; the Customs and Border Protection’s National Targeting Center; the Royal Thai Police; the Philippines National Bureau of Investigation; and the Philippines National Police; and the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs.  Mr. Berman also thanked the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of North Carolina and the Department of Justice’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section for their support and assistance.

This prosecution is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit.  Assistant United States Attorneys Patrick Egan, Emil J. Bove III, and Rebekah Donaleski were in charge of the prosecution.

Topic(s): 
Violent Crime
Press Release Number: 
19-068
Updated March 7, 2019