Ex-U.S. soldier charged for 'international crime spree' extradited from Ukraine

A former U.S. soldier has been extradited to the United States from Ukraine to face a slew of charges, including murder. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI
A former U.S. soldier has been extradited to the United States from Ukraine to face a slew of charges, including murder. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo

June 4 (UPI) -- A former U.S. soldier who became a volunteer foreign fighter has been extradited back to the United States from Ukraine to face numerous charges stemming from what federal prosecutors have described as "an international crime spree."

Craig Austin Lang, 34, of Surprise, Ariz., faces numerous charges in three U.S. districts and faces up to life in prison if convicted. He made his initial appearance Monday afternoon in Fort Myers, Fla., after being extradited to the United States from Ukraine.


"Individuals that engage in such activity must face the consequences of their actions," Executive Assistant Director Timothy Langan of the FBI's Criminal, Cyber, Response and Services Branch said in a statement.

"If you cause harm to the American public, we will relentlessly pursue you even if you are located beyond our borders."

Prosecutors in Florida allege Lang murdered a couple from Brooksville, Fla., in 2018 along with co-conspirator Alex Jared Zwiefelhofer, 27, who was convicted of the crime in March and is scheduled for sentencing on Aug. 6.

According to court documents, the pair of former U.S. soldiers met in Ukraine in 2017 as members of a volunteer force fighting Russian separatists.


Prosecutors said they then traveled to Kenya with intentions to fight terrorists there before trying to enter South Sudan where they were detained and deported back to the United States.

Court documents accuse them of trying to sell firearms in the United States on a website called "ARMSLIST." A Brooksville couple contacted them over their listing, and Lang and Zwiefelhofer killed them in April 2018 to steal the $3,000 the couple had intended to use to buy their weapons, prosecutors allege.

The robbery was allegedly to fund their travel to Venezuela where they planned to fight the regime of President Nicolas Maduro.

Lang is also facing charges in North Carolina where he is accused of attempting to acquire a U.S. passport under an assumed name as part of efforts to evade law enforcement in September 2018.

Prosecutors said he paid one of his co-conspirators a suitcase full of firearms, a military-grade smoke grade and $1,500 in cash for their personal information, which Lang used to acquire a passport that he then used to buy airline tickets from Georgia to New York and then to Ukraine.

In Nevada, he's accused of misusing a passport to obtain a Mexican visa.


"Lang's alleged conduct is shocking in its scope and its callous disregard for human life," Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Nicole Argentieri, head of the Justice Department's Criminal Division, said.

"His wrongdoing, however, was no match for the efforts of dedicated law enforcement personnel and prosecutors in the United States and abroad to investigate, locate, arrest and extradite Lang so he would face justice before courts in the United States."

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