Wilson, for example, views the Zetas massacre as vindication. "The GET guys were about to be disbanded when we came in and kicked their asses," he says. "Now everybody is looking back at it and saying, 'This shit works.' If they don't want to deal with it, the cartels are going to be everywhere."

But there is no black and white in the private security business. By Wilson's own admission, Risks Inc. itself nearly trained narcos by accident. "We had agreed to go down there and train another state's police force," he says. "We were just waiting on the plane tickets when — bam — the entire department was arrested for working for the drug cartels."

When a trip to Nigeria to train police recently fell through, Wilson ended up training vigilantes in the volatile north of the country. Who's to say those vigilantes won't do more harm than good with their newly acquired skills?

Cameron K. Lewis
Cameron K. Lewis

As the heads of massive mercenary companies, Walbridge and Wardak have made millions, much of it from American taxpayers. Yet they are able to easily hide their pasts — and their personal fortunes — from the public. As a result, Walbridge can continue to run "boutique" ops in Brazil even as riots shake the country to its core. And Wardak can keep inventing celebrity causes to mask his past.

That all three men are still in business boils down to one simple fact: People are willing to pay them.

Sitting at his desk, Wilson receives a phone call from a contact in Mexico. Two people have supposedly been kidnapped. "If the family doesn't come up with $20,000 in two hours, they are going to start doing things to them," the contact says.

Wilson isn't interested.

"What are we going to do, hire a team with guns to go into Mexico? How would we do that? And how would we get paid?" he asks. "Such is life. That shit happens all the time. The family is thinking about their loved ones, but I'm thinking about business."

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