Globe-trotting ex-Army soldier murdered couple in Florida, wanted to kill people overseas: Feds


Craig Lang

Craig Lang is accused of murdering a couple in Florida, applying for a passport using a fake name and traveling overseas to fight for other countries. (Department of Justice)

A former U.S. Army soldier is back stateside after being extradited from Ukraine following an alleged international crime spree that included a double murder in Florida, applying for passports using a fake name and going overseas to commit violence, violating the Neutrality Act.

Craig Austin Lang, 34, of Surprise, Arizona, faces criminal charges in the Middle District of Florida, the Eastern District of North Carolina, and the District of Arizona. The charges include double homicide, armed robbery, false statements in a passport application, aggravated identity theft, and misuse of a passport in violation of conditions and restrictions, among charges.

“Lang’s alleged conduct is shocking in its scope and its callous disregard for human life,” Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri said in a statement.

A federal judge in the Middle District of Florida arraigned Lang on the charges Monday. According to a criminal complaint, Lang and co-defendant Alex Jared Zwiefelhofer, 27, of Bloomer, Wisconsin, met in Ukraine in 2017 where Zwiefelhofer claimed they were fighting Russian separatists as part of a volunteer battalion. The duo then allegedly went to Kenya where they claimed they were fighting terrorists. They were detained while trying to enter South Sudan and deported, the DOJ said.

Once back in the U.S., Lang told a Customs and Border Protection officer that he had been a “soldier and military advisor to the Ukraine Army since 2015,” a criminal complaint said. They were allegedly trying to go to South Sudan to “fight along with their military.” Lang told the officer he was going back to Arizona to live with his mother.

Feds said Lang and Zwiefelhofer went to Florida in April 2018. Lang and Zwiefelhofer set up a meeting with an elderly couple to sell them some firearms. The couple responded to an advertisement the suspects had posted online on a website called Armslist, the complaint said. Around 11 p.m. on April 9, 2018, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office responded to several reports of “rapid gunfire” in the area of Cypress Park Circle in Estero.

Deputies responded but didn’t see anything. The next day, around 7:14 a.m., an employee at a plaza adjacent to the shots fired call saw a dead man outside a pickup truck and a dead woman in the front passenger seat. The couple lived in Brooksville, about two and a half hours north of the crime scene.

Investigators found more than 60 spent shell casings. An autopsy determined the couple was hit a total of 18 times, the complaint said. Detectives learned the couple was texting with a number tied to Zwiefelhofer. The couple had responded to the ad on Armslist and drove to the Fort Meyers area to buy the weapons from Lang and Zwiefelhofer for $3,000, according to the complaint. Instead, Lang and Zwiefelhofer allegedly murdered the couple. The alleged murderers wanted to use the money to travel to Venezuela to fight the Venezuelan regime, feds said.

Lang traveled to North Carolina following the murderers. Prosecutors allege he took “various actions in September 2018 to evade law enforcement detection and minimize scrutiny when travelling internationally,” according to the statement. Lang reportedly submitted a passport application in the name of a co-conspirator. In exchange, Lang allegedly gave him a suitcase containing several firearms, a military smoke grenade and $1,500 in cash. Several days later, Lang and another man allegedly used fake passports to fly to Ukraine. Lang also used a fake passport to try to obtain a Mexican visa while in his native Arizona, feds allege.

According to the prosecutors, Lang tried to fight extradition through the European Court of Human Rights but his request was denied. FBI agents escorted Lang from Ukraine back to the US.

Lang and Zwiefelhofer also are accused of violating the Neutrality Act, which forbids U.S. citizens to wage war on countries the U.S. is at peace with. A federal jury convicted Zwiefelhofer of several of the charges Lang is facing. He’s slated to be sentenced on Aug. 6.

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