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Cartels recruiting soldiers

Updated: Wednesday, September 4 2013, 09:09 PM MDT
Cartels recruiting soldiers story image

By: Gina Benitez
Fort Bliss, TEXAS -- Many experts said drug cartels are hiring soldiers for contract killings.

KFOX 14 found out the numbers on Fort Bliss and whether post officials feel it's a problem installation-wide.

"Clearly, we have a very unique situation in the Army because we're on a border," said Maj. Joe Buccino, Fort Bliss spokesman.

But despite that, Buccino said there is no indication of contract killings being an issue on Fort Bliss.

"Our criminal investigation division and our military police investigators work very closely on-post and off-post with local law enforcement and we've seen no indicators that there is an increase in gang activity or an increase in recruitment on behalf of the cartel," Buccino said.

Numbers KFOX 14 obtained show investigators on Bliss were tracking six possible soldier recruitment cases in the last two years .

Only one of them turned out to be a legitimate situation where a soldier was actively being recruited by a cartel; the other five turned out to be nothing.

And then there's a case from three years ago.

"This Michael Apodaca case in an anomaly. That's what we think," Buccino said.

Pfc. Michael Apodaca was a former Fort Bliss soldier.

In 2009, he was recruited by the Juarez Cartel and paid $5,000 to shoot and kill a cartel member-turned ICE informant.

Apodaca was handed down a life sentence in July 2013 here in an El Paso district court.

"In the case of Pfc. Apodaca, the motivation was financial. So that may be an indicator, a sign, certainly financial troubles are an indicator of a high risk soldier," Buccino said.

But Buccino said there are a number of other things that indicate a high-risk soldier, like alcohol problems or marriage issues.

"Our leaders are constantly scanning, they've got their antenna up, they're aware of what's going on within their formations and those indicators that I mentioned, they're constantly looking out for those," Buccino said.

Cartels recruiting soldiers
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