Former military member turned murder suspect seeking asylum in Ukraine
A suspect in a 2018 double murder in Estero is currently in Ukraine, fighting extradition back to the United States.
Craig Lang and co-defendant Alex Zwiefelhofer face several federal charges including murder and conspiracy to organize a military expedition to fight a foreign government.
Lang is seeking asylum in Ukraine to stay with his Ukranian wife whom he claims has a child on the way.
In an indictment, the FBI claims Lang and Zwiefelhofer robbed and murdered a Brooksville couple in an Estero parking lot in April 2018 as a way to fund travel to Venezuela to fight against the government.
Zwiefelhofer plead not guilty to all charges in federal court Tuesday. But Lang is currently in custody in Ukraine, fighting extradition back to the United States.
Federal magistrate judge Nicholas Mizell referred to the case as a ‘potential death penalty’ case.
If federal prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Zwiefelhofer it could further complicate extradition proceedings against Lang.
His attorney, Dmitry Morgun, said Ukraine will not extradite him unless there are assurances from the United States that he will not face the death penalty.
“Ukraine is a part of the world human rights organization that frowns upon capital punishment … Ukraine has a right to defend against each person that would be facing a death penalty in that country,” Morgun told WINK News through a Russian translator.
The Department of Justice told WINK News by email it has a longstanding policy not to comment on extradition proceedings until they are completed.
In the meantime, Morgun asked for Lang to be released on house arrest in Ukraine but was unsuccessful.
He will continue to be held in jail for another 60 days and will have to appear in court again for prosecutors to ask to extend his detention.
Morgun said that under Ukrainian law he cannot be held more than 12 months without being extradited.
Lang first came to Ukraine in 2015, according to the FBI, where he fought alongside a volunteer military group known as the Right Sector against Russian Seperatists.
In 2016, Zwiefelhofer, who was AWOL from the United States Army arrived in Ukraine to join that fight.
He bragged of his escapes on his Instagram account, posting a video of gunfire in the town of Marinka and telling a friend he was firing at human targets in another post.
He and Lang then traveled together to Kenya where they tried to enter South Sudan to fight against an Islamic extremist group.
But the FBI said in court documents that this stunt put them on the radar of the US Embassy and they were deported back to the United States.
In July 2017, Customs agents at the Charlotte International airport said they found child pornography on Zwiefelhofer’s phone. He was arrested in North Carolina, and released on bond to his family home in Wisconsin.
Lang returned to the United States from Kenya and told federal agents he would be residing with his mother in Arizona.
But in early 2018 the pair began communicating to devise a plan to fund more fighting in foreign wars.
The FBI said in April that year they traveled to Miami and posted an advertisement on a website selling firearms.
Serafin and Deanna Lorenzo responded to that ad and agreed to travel from Brookesville to meet the pair to purchase firearms. The Lorenzos frequently bought and resold firearms.
The FBI says Lang and Zwiefelhofer then shot the Lorenzos in a darkened Estero parking lot and stole the couple’s $3,000.
Zwiefelhofer returned to Wisconsin but Lang made his way from Mexico to Columbia and then on to Spain and ultimately entered Ukraine.
A court document explains that Lang smudged a ‘return to US only’ stamp on his passport to be able to exit the United States.