April 17, 2014
Contact: DEA Public Affairs
DEA and U.S. Attorney Announce Extradition of Former Member of Polish Armed Forces Charged with Narcotics Conspiracies
APR 17 (WASHINGTON) –Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Michele M. Leonhart, the Administrator of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), today announced that Slawomir Soborski was extradited from Estonia where he had been arrested for conspiracy to import cocaine into the United States and conspiracy to distribute cocaine on board an aircraft. Soborski, a Polish citizen, will make his first appearance today in Manhattan federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Henry B. Pitman. Soborski’s co-defendants, Joseph Manuel Hunter, Timothy Vamvakias, and Dennis Gogel, were previously arrested in Thailand (Hunter) and Liberia (Vamvakias and Gogel) and brought to the United States in September 2013. Co-defendant Michael Filter was previously arrested in Estonia in September 2013 and is pending extradition to the United States.
DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart said: “It is especially despicable when someone like Soborski, who was trained by his nation to protect his countrymen from harm, uses that very training as a mercenary for hire by criminals whose alleged drug trafficking activities harm individuals, families and communities, both in the United States and around the world. Soborski’s alleged drug trafficking crimes deserve to face the close scrutiny of trial and judgment in the United States’ criminal justice system. The DEA takes pride in having helped thwart his deadly business, secure his arrest and expedite his prosecution.”
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “With the arrival of Slawomir Soborski in the United States, one more of the alleged international band of narcotics traffickers and mercenary hitmen, allegedly eager and prepared to kill for cash, will be forced to face these bone-chilling charges in a U.S. court.”
According to the Superseding Indictment:
All five defendants have previously served in the armed forces of their respective nations. Soborski served in the Polish armed forces until 2011, and was trained as a sniper. Hunter served as a sniper instructor and a senior drill sergeant, training other soldiers in marksmanship and tactics. Since leaving the U.S. Army in 2004, Hunter has acted as a “contract killer” and successfully arranged for the murder of a number of people.
During meetings in Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean, beginning in January 2013 and continuing through late September 2013, Hunter communicated with three confidential sources (the “CSs”) working with the DEA, who purported to be Colombian narcotics traffickers. Hunter agreed to serve as the head of security for the CSs’ purported narcotics trafficking organization, and assembled a “security team” consisting of Vamvakias, Gogel, Filter, and Soborski. Hunter also told the CSs that he had previously been involved in contract killings – referred to as “bonus jobs” – and that some team members wanted to do as much “bonus work” as possible.
Hunter and his co-defendants, including Soborski, thereafter agreed, in meetings and communications with the CSs, to provide security and surveillance services to the narcotics trafficking organization. Communications between the defendants and the CSs occurred by telephone, over e-mail, and in a series of surreptitiously audio-recorded and videotaped meetings over an approximately nine-month period.
Hunter and his four co-defendants provided a variety of services to the CSs’ purported narcotics organization. In late March 2013, in Thailand, at Hunter’s direction, Soborski, Gogel, and Filter surveilled a vessel on behalf of the CSs’ purported narcotics trafficking organization. In April 2013, in Mauritius, at the direction of the CSs, Soborski, Gogel, and Filter provided security for a meeting at which the participants discussed the distribution of illegal narcotics to the United States and in late June 2013, in the Bahamas, Soborski, Vamvakias, Gogel, and Filter conducted surveillance of a purported U.S.-registered aircraft at the direction of the third CS (“CS-3”), who posed as a member of the CSs’ narcotics trafficking organization. CS-3 informed the defendants that the aircraft was to be loaded with 300 kilograms of cocaine to be shipped to New York.
With respect to the murder-for-hire scheme, in mid-May 2013, at a meeting with the CSs in Thailand, Hunter, Soborski, Vamvakias, and Gogel were told that a “bonus job” – that is, a contract killing – was in the offing, due to a leak within the CSs’ narcotics trafficking organization. In late May 2013, in e-mail communications, Hunter confirmed that his team would be willing to murder both a U.S. law enforcement agent and a source (a boat captain) who was providing information to U.S. law enforcement authorities. Hunter confirmed by e-mail that his team would kill both the DEA agent and the informant who was providing information to law enforcement about the CSs’ narcotics trafficking organization. At a meeting in late June 2013, in the Bahamas, CS-3 explained to Vamvakias and Gogel that “the job is to kill a U.S. DEA agent and a source with the DEA,” who would be located in Liberia. Vamvakias and Gogel discussed the weapons that could be used and masks to be worn for the murders, and Vamvakias stated that it would be better to “hit the agent first” and then “the snitch.” In early July 2013, Hunter sent via e-mail a list of the items needed for the murders, including “[t]wo Submachine Guns with silencers . . .[t]wo .22 pistols with Silencers.”
In late September 2013, Gogel and Vamvakias arrived in Liberia to commit the planned murders-for-hire, where they were ultimately arrested. On the same day, Soborski was arrested in Estonia, with Filter, in coordination with Estonian authorities, and remained in the custody of Estonian authorities until his extradition today to the United States.
Soborski, 42, is charged with one count of conspiracy to import cocaine into the United States, and one count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine on board an aircraft. Each count carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant would be determined by the judge. The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain. Trial has been set for October 6, 2014.
The charges, arrests, and transfers of 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; DEA’s Bangkok, Ghana, Pretoria, Bucharest, Manila, Nassau and Copenhagen Offices; the Royal Thai Police Narcotics Suppression Bureau and Crime Suppression Division; Royal Thai Immigration; the Royal Thai Attorney General's Office; Republic of Liberia’s National Security Agency; the Republic of Liberia’s Attorney General's Office; the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board; the Estonian National Criminal Police, Investigative Bureau; the Estonian State Prosecutor’s Office; the Royal Bahamas Police Force and Drug Enforcement Unit; the Romanian National Police; Interpol; and the U.S. Department of Justice Office of International Affairs.
This prosecution is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Michael Lockard, Aimee Hector, and Anna Skotko are in charge of the prosecution.