McALLEN, Texas (Reuters) - A former U.S. Army officer pleaded guilty on Wednesday to taking part in a murder-for-hire conspiracy set up by undercover agents who posed as members of Mexico's ruthless Zetas drug cartel.
Kevin Corley, 29, also pleaded guilty to drug trafficking and weapons charges in U.S. federal court in Laredo, Texas, prosecutors said.
Authorities arrested two others in the scheme and fatally shot a third man, his cousin Jerome Corley, when the months-long investigation reached a head in March.
Corley was an Army first lieutenant from November 2008 to March 2012 who had served in Afghanistan, an Army spokeswoman said. He is from Colorado Springs, Colorado.
The operation began after two men told undercover agents posing as Zetas members that Corley could obtain fully automatic weapons and sniper rifles, a federal criminal complaint states.
Corley met with the undercover agents in September 2011, telling them he was an Army officer and trainer and could enlist an assassination team to raid a ranch and recover 20 kilograms of cocaine stolen by rivals, according to his plea agreement.
He later told the agents he could perform contract killings, according to the plea agreement. Corley offered to carry out the assassination for $50,000 and five kilograms of cocaine and said he would give back the cash if he did not retrieve the cocaine and carry out the killing, according to the plea agreement.
The agents said Corley sold them bullet resistant vests, Army manuals, two AR-15 assault rifles and other equipment.
Also on Wednesday, Shavar Davis, 29, of Denver, pleaded guilty to federal drug and murder-for-hire conspiracy charges for his role in the plot.
Corley and Davis face up to 10 years in prison each on the murder-for-hire conspiracy convictions and 10-year minimum sentences for the drug conspiracy convictions.
Editing by David Bailey; Editing by Will Dunham