German ex-soldier charged with US cocaine conspiracy

New York – A German former soldier extradited from Estonia appeared in court in New York on Thursday charged with conspiracy to import and distribute cocaine on board an aircraft, prosecutors said.

Michael Filter arrived in New York on Wednesday, 15 months after three US and German co-defendants were charged with plotting to kill a US drug enforcement agent and an informant in what prosecutors called a “bone-chilling” murder-for-hire scheme.

A fourth co-defendant, Slawomir Soborski of Poland, was extradited to the United States in April, but neither he nor Filter are wanted in connection with the murder-for-hire plot.

The case is set to go to trial on 9 March.

The group of former German, Polish and US soldiers were charged after a sting operation in which investigators taped conversations between the accused and sources posing as drug traffickers.

Authorities say the ring leader was Joseph Hunter, a former US Army sergeant who served as a sniper instructor during his 21-year stint in the military and who sometimes went by the nickname “Rambo.”

Hunter allegedly acted as a contract killer for years, according to the indictment, and on clandestine recordings recounted how he arranged murders or “bonus jobs” for real estate agents.

Authorities allege Hunter recruited the team of four former soldiers, including Filter and Soborski, who had been trained as snipers to protect cocaine shipments by air to New York.

Hunter and two other ex-soldiers also agreed to murder a drug enforcement agent and an informer, in return for pay from what they believed was a drug trafficking gang, the indictment said.

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