Former Army sniper turned mercenary known as 'Rambo' gets life in prison for contract killing

Bullet Points
In this Sept. 26, 2013 file photo, Joseph Hunter, second from left, a former U.S. Army sniper who became a private mercenary, is in the custody of Thai police commandos after being arrested in Bangkok, Thailand. (Associated Press/Sakchai Lalit)

A former Army sergeant who worked as a sniper instructor and carved out a post-military career as a mercenary under the moniker 'Rambo' was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the contract killing of a woman in the Philippines, the Department of Justice announced on Thursday.


  • Joseph Hunter, who served in the Army from 1983 to 2004 and led air-assault and infantry squads, was found guilty in April 2018 of orchestrating the murder of real estate agent Catherine Lee with two other former soldiers.
  • "With zero regard for human life, Joseph Hunter callously helped to arrange the murder of a Filipino woman in exchange for money," Geoffery Berman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement. "He and his co-defendants have now been sentenced to life behind bars for their heartless crimes."
  • Hunter, 53, was previously sentenced to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty in 2015 to charges including conspiracy to murder a federal drug agent and import cocaine into the United States as an enforcer for South African businessman Paul Le Roux.
  • Prosecutors had argued that, after leaving the military, Hunter "tortured, kidnapped and killed people for years along with other former soldiers," per the Associated Press, murdering Lee because Le Roux "wanted to settle a score with the broker."
  • During Hunter's trial, his defense attorney argued that years of military service had left Hunter with post-traumatic stress disorder, per the AP: "The country still owes something to Mr. Hunter."

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