US & Canada

Former US army sniper pleads guilty to murder plot

A former US soldier who allegedly formed an international band of snipers as mercenaries has confessed to a murder plot in New York.

Joseph Hunter, nicknamed Rambo after the hero of the 1980s action films, pleaded guilty to conspiring to kill a federal agent and an informant.

The 49-year-old faces at least 10 years in prison.

He believed he had been working for drug traffickers who were actually working for the US anti-drugs agency.

He is accused of recruiting ex-military snipers with the aim of carrying out murders on behalf of drug organisations.

The band was secretly recorded agreeing to kill an agent for the US Drug Enforcement Administration and an informant for a total of $800,000 (£519,400), prosecutors say.

The murders were never carried out.

'Soldier of misfortune'

The former soldier was arrested in September 2013 along with four other men, three of them snipers, who had served in military forces around the world.

Hunter - thinking of his family - decided to avoid a trial which had been set for 9 March, defence lawyer Marlon Kirton was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.

He pleaded guilty despite believing the government had unlawfully entrapped him, the lawyer added.

The former soldier's judgment had been "severely affected" by post-traumatic stress and depression after two decades in the US army, the lawyer said. He is expected to be sentenced in May.

He became a "soldier of misfortune who recruited and led an international band of criminal mercenaries," said US Attorney Preet Bharara. "This global gun for hire will now be confined stateside in federal prison."

Three others charged in the case have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. Another defendant is awaiting a trial scheduled to start next month.