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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: The Coder Who Became A Criminal Mastermind - Paul Le Roux

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In 2011 a British security contractor named Dave Smith was found dead.

Hed been drinking in a bar, then while walking outside was kidnapped, thrown into

a shallow grave and shot.

His bloodied body was then covered with earth, buried on the orders of his boss, a man known

to his associates as The Mastermind.

This was one of many assassinations carried out by hitmen working for one of the most

unusual and intelligent criminals in modern times.

That criminal is Paul Le Roux, a brilliant programmer who branched out from tech into

much darker territory.

Hes one of the men responsible for the USAs drug crisis; he dealt in North Korean-made

methamphetamine; he sold military-grade weapons such as missiles, to very unsavory characters;

had yachts carrying fortunes of drugs and gold, as well as planes stacked with cash

and contraband.

And if you worked for him, well, existence was tenuous.

This is the story of a bona fide criminal mastermind, but one which differs from most

tales about sociopathic wrongdoers.

His activities spanned the globe and left trails of blood in their wake, but unlike

most murderous villains, he started out writing code and trolling people on forums.

In another life he might well have worked for Apple, but he eventually ended up seeding

the underworld with hardcore drugs weapons.

Hes been called the kid, whizz, who really, truly, broke bad; who makes Walter White look

like Mary Poppins; a nerd with an amazing aptitude for computer science, a kind of dangerous

genius befitting the role of any villain you might find in a James Bond movie.

As a kid he was loved and doted on; he was a good student with tons of talent, and as

an adult he became an entrepreneurial crime lord who had few scruples about taking out

his enemies or the people who worked most closely with him that he no longer trusted.

How did this happen?

How could such a brilliant young man with an ordinary life and acumen for creating complex

algorithms turn into something resembling a person who might fit the title of Dr. Evil?

Lets start from the beginning.

Le Roux was born on December 24, 1972, but was soon given up for adoption in his hometown

of Bulawayo, the second largest city in Zimbabwe.

Some sources say that his mother was a poor teenager and that there is no mention of his

father on his birth certificate, although in American journalist Evan Ratliffs book

on Le Rouxcalled The Mastermindits said his father was a South African named

Darroll Hornbuckle.

That father, says the book, would later meet his son and actually get involved with some

of the criminal activity.

As for his mother, some sources say she is actually married to a U.S. senator.

So much secrecy surrounds this guy its very hard to follow his story.

For example, some people even claim he was the creator of Bitcoin, the one and only Satoshi


This is very unlikely, but after hearing his tale, well, anything would seem possible.

What we know for sure is that Le Roux was adopted into a caring family.

They took him to another part of Zimbabwe and its said there he was loved, and with

his sister had a happy childhood.

His new parents named him Paul Calder Le Roux.

The family left Zimbabwe shortly after Robert Mugabe came to power and ended white minority


They went to South Africa where the father found a good job working for a mining company,

and this made them quite a wealthy family.

Le Roux has been described as a clever student, though the book about him says he looked down

on other students and called them dimwits.

He had little interest in socializing or sports, but had a fondness for playing video games.

His bios make him sound like quite a reclusive kid, and that apparently got worse after he

was arrested aged either 15 or 16 for selling pornography.

At this time though some of his talents were manifesting, and believing he didnt need

school the young boy dropped out and started learning programming.

Its said here he excelled and finished a one year course in just eight weeks.

At 17 he left South Africa and headed to the UK where he found a job as a programmer and

would meet his future wife.

We really dont know that much about this time in his life and most of the information

we do know is from that book we mentioned, with the author relying mainly on unnamed

sources and police data to tell the story.

He writes that Le Roux spent some time in the US, but quickly went over to Australia

where he was granted citizenship.

So far, there was nothing too out of the ordinary about this man except he was obviously gifted

and fiercely independent.

We know some things about his character because of messages he posted on a Usenet newsgroup

in the 90s.

It was obvious he understood encryption at a highly technical level, but you can also

see that he trolled a lot of people and used racist language.

This was maybe his first sign of unpleasantness, but also a sign that one day he would become

what some people have called the worlds most notorious cyber-criminal.

The author of the book we mentioned, Evan Ratliff, says on his website that he spoke

to a person called Lulu, who gave him many details about Le Roux in the early years.

Indeed, it seems the young Le Roux was obsessed with code, but as Ratliff writes, his life

would turn out to resemble a cross between Bill Gates and a mafia Godfather.

His genius could be seen in those posts he made online in his early days, but at the

same time he seemed quite moronic regarding his cultural outlook.

He seemed to hate Australia and enjoy making his fellow countrymen mad.

Word for word he once wrote, “As I recall, the genetic effects of human inbreeding are

not as disastrous as those of breeding with animals.

A lesson Australians have never learned.”

He also made a few spelling mistakes in there, so one might wonder if all his talents were

in one basket.

He once wrote, “People like you should be rounded up, castrated, then shot.”

And that was a reply to someone who had gotten upset at him for saying all Asians had DNA


You get the picture; this young bright man had some very hateful opinions.

In 1997 he created something calledE4MEncryption for the Masses.”

Ratliff writes, “Le Rouxs software allowed users to encrypt their entire hard drivesand

to conceal the existence of encrypted files, so that prying eyes wouldnt even know they

were there.”

Remember, we have a loner of a kid, someone who has been arrested for pornography, and

someone who hides behind a computer and insults races.

Encryption you could say suited his personality.

After thousands of hours of programming and two years after he started E4M, he released

it to the public.

In his manifesto for his software he wrote, “The battle for privacy has long since been

lost in the real world.

As more and more human activity becomes computerized, governments are scrambling to preserve and

extend their powers.”

According to Le Roux, only strong encryption could save people from a government we shouldnt


If big brother was watching, Le Roux was blowing smoke into his line of sight.

We know that he got divorced and we are told it was a tempestuous break-up.

He wasnt really making much money from his genius, and after splitting up with his

wife he moved around a lot, to Hong Kong and then to the Netherlands where he met his second

wife and had a kid with her.

He started another company with a Dutch man, who later went on record saying Le Roux was

desperate to earn money for his wife and kid.

This partner said Le Roux told him he wanted to be rich, to have what he wanted in life,

but the partner said much of the time there was just something about Le Roux that made

him suspicious of him.

His words were, Le Roux came across asdisingenuous”.

He did say that he was exceptionally talented though, and when he had to learn a new programming

language to build an online casino website he did it fast.

The partner said, “In one week, he was better than most of the programmers I know that program

in that language.”

It was around this time that he found out he was actually adopted, and some people have

said this might have had something to do with how his character became somewhat aggressive

and misanthropic, how he edged towards a darker side of existence.

There are many cases of adopted kids being told the truth later in life and not taking

it well.

Still, he was a long way from killing his colleagues at this time.

But soon he got out of the encryption business and started his criminal career.

He created something of an online prescription-drug empire, known as RX Limited to the U.S. government.

He first did this with two Israeli brothers called Tomer and Boaz Taggart whom he had

met online.

Le Roux created a complex system which linked people eager to buy prescription drugs to

doctors and pharmacists, and no doubt many of you have seen such sites where you can

get your hands on prescription drugs easily.

Soon millions of people would start seeing the words, “Buy drugs online,” in their


At this point its said Le Rouxs appearance changed, and he became very fat and a little


As a manager, though, some people said he could be very good to work with and always

listened to his employees.

One person wrote, “He was always buying gifts for people.

His representation of himself, as far as I am concerned, made him seem more legitimate.”

Its said his RX business was at one point earning him five million dollars a month,

but you wouldnt know it by looking at him as his preferred sartorial style was flip-flops

and shorts.

As a rich man he acquired a bunch of different names, and at various points he was called

John Bernard Bowlins, Benny, Alex, Johan William Smit and William Vaughn.

He also created a slew of shell companies and RX spawned a few other rogue online pharmacies.

Later Le Roux would be accused of being the man, or one of the main men, behind drug addiction

epidemics all over the world.

That wasnt just the online stuff, though, but well get around to his hardcore substance

business later.

Its said what he was doing wasnt exactly illegal, but operated in a gray area.

He made both the buyers and the people prescribing the drugs think everything was legitimate,

but what hed really done was create a way for people to get their hands on drugs that

was much easier than doing it the traditional way.

Inboxes all over the globe were filled with spam emails from his dodgy online pharmacies.

He had call centers in Israel and also in the Philippines and business was booming.

At this point one of the managers working for Le Roux in Israel had the idea of starting

a similar business while also working for him.

The shorter story is that this guy was almost murdered by the man named Dave Smith, the

security boss for Le Roux.

But Le Roux wasnt happy with just many, many millions, he wanted a lot more.

He bought land in Zimbabwe with a plan to give it back to the white farmers who Le Roux

said had it unfairly taken from them under the Mugabe government.

He also got into logging in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but that didnt last


Still, he wanted more, and this tech wizard was now willing to get his hands dirty, or

should we say filthy.

His former associate would tell Ratliff, “The only way to do that was illegal.

He was living inside a movie, you could almost say.

He always had a dark side, it just developed more with money.”

At this point he moved to Manila, and from there with many staff and soldiers as security,

Le Roux entered into new businesses which included large drug shipments, arms trafficking

and a fair bit of money laundering.

He used Hong Kong as his financial hub, and there he had houses stuffed with gold bars,

silver and diamonds.

He had former elite Israeli, British and American soldiers making sure no one took any of that

from him.

He also had all those shell companies, and when he moved stuff around he used his own

boats or private planes.

It was difficult for anyone to track what he was doing because of course he was a master

of encryption.

Different names and passports also helped.

What is also interesting is that his encryption tech had been used to help Edward Snowden

release all those documents that unearthed a lot of U.S. military secrets.

The National Security Agency werent up to cracking that encryption.

The U.S. was no doubt interested in Le Roux, and it would later be found out that he was

behind an arms trade on a boat called the Captain Ufuk.

When the Philippine Coast Guard became suspicious of this ship they stopped it and on board

found crates full of SS1 assault rifles and other guns.

Its thought the shipment was on its way to a terrorist organization.

La Plata Trading, one of Le Rouxs companies, had purchased that ship.

Arms dealing was one of his main activities, and Le Roux was also behind a shipment of

AK-47 assault rifles and light machine guns sent to Somali militias.

There are rumors that Le Roux intended to invade the Maldives with his own militia,

but thats likely not the truth.

What most people think he was doing was creating a force to fight off Somali pirates who had

been causing havoc on the high seas.

It didnt stop there; Le Roux was also said to have been involved with trying to ship

missile guidance systems to Iran.

We dont know the full extent of his arms dealing activities, but lets just say he

had his finger in a lot of dirty pies and he didnt seem to have scruples regarding

whom he sold arms to.

Then back to the drugs, because Le Roux never gave up on them as a way to make money.

Its said he was involved in plantations where the coca leaf was grown; that he had

several operations involving the cultivation and distribution of various drugs worldwide

including opium and cannabis, and with this and arms dealing and so much money and gold

around he needed a lot of protection.

One person who was his main hitman for a while, a former American drill sergeant and sniper

instructor was said to have done hits for Le Roux and also recruited other mercenaries

that had once been soldiers or defense contractors.

In terms of violence, he had the best working for him.

In terms of the death toll, thats likely higher than he has admitted to.

And many people did go missing, with Le Roux giving the orders each time and on occasions

likely being there.

A man named Bruce Jones who was implicated in the Captain Ufuk arms shipment was put

into the witness protection program, but that didnt save him.

He was assassinated in Manila on his way home from a shopping mall after he had grown confident

enough to go out in the streets again.

Le Roux was never convicted for the hit, but many think he was behind it.

Ratliff writes that Le Roux was becoming paranoid, and he was more than willing to take out anyone

who he thought might interrupt his business and lifestyle.

Even Joneslawyer, a man named Joe Frank Zuñiga, left his house one day and was never

seen again.

Another man, Mike Lontoc, who had worked for one of Le Rouxs shady companies met the

same fate.

He was shot in his car at an intersection in Manila after he stopped when he got a phone


Four men got in front of the car and shot at the driver with Uzis and handguns.

Later Lontocs wife would say he had been involved in arms deals and couldnt get

out of the business.

Le Roux was never convicted, but its said by some sources that the person behind it

was simply themastermind.”

Another man involved with that fatal shipment on the Captain Ufuk also went missing.

His name was Herbert Tan Tiu.

There was good reason for thinking all this was Le Rouxs work, because one of his hitmen

named Ronald Baricuatro was arrested and at his house police found a kill list.

He had been employed by Dave Smith, but denied killing Lontoc even though thats what some

people thought.

Baricuatro did tell the cops, though, that hed been hired to take out a journalist

that had gotten too close to the truth.

The long and short of it is, they all worked for one manthe mastermind.

Le Roux moved to Rio when things heated up and from there planned to do some drug shipments

via yacht to Ecuador.

One shipment didnt work out, and a dead man was found on a washed up ship along with

120 million dollarsworth of cocaine.

And it just gets murkier and murkier.

Le Roux admitted to ordering a hit on a woman named Noimie Edillor.

She was a real estate agent but had dealings with Le Roux and had told him she could pay

a bribe to get illegal goods through customs.

Apparently she didnt go through with that, and so some of Le Rouxs hitmen pretended

to be looking for a house with her one day and then killed her at a place that was quiet.

Another woman was killed in a similar way.

Her name was Catherine Lee and Le Roux ordered her murder when a property deal with him went


Hed been ripped off three million bucks, and that was never going to be anything but

a death sentence for the people behind it.

Le Roux admitted to ordering the hit in court later, but was not convicted of the murder

because of an agreement he had made with the authorities.

The bodies had been piling up and Ratliff said that Le Roux had created a climate of

absolute fear.

While all this was going on Le Roux was still doing drug business with the Colombians and

elsewhere and the DEA were on to him.

They knew he was behind those online pharmacies and they also knew he was shipping large quantities

of ingredients used to make crystal methamphetamine.

Throw the words North Korea and Iran into the mix, and the Americans were prowling around

like caged tigers smelling blood not too far away.

They soon discovered a whole bunch of companies run by Le Roux, and with them lots of aliases

he had used.

Ratliff writes that the DEA compared this once hardworking tech nerd with Sinaloa cartel

head JoaquínEl ChápoGuzman and Taliban-affiliated heroin trafficker Bashir Noorzai.

He also said that Le Roux just got greedy, that he should have left the online drug business

early and not branched out.

There was no need, he already had millions.

Criminal sociopaths, though, rarely hang up their gloves in their prime.

It was the prescription pill business they were planning to get him for, not all the

other crimes we have mentioned.

Its not clear anyway exactly what the DEA knew at this point, but they knew enough to

make him a major target.

But when they tapped his phone in 2012 they discovered something else.

That was he, or at least his associates, had a warehouse in Hong Kong containing 24 tons

of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, in 960 bags labeled as sodium chloride- in Ratliffs

words, “enough to create an explosive ten times bigger than the one used in the Oklahoma

City bombing.”

Around this time Le Roux and his operatives were moving millions of dollars of gold around,

likely knowing they were about to find themselves in deep water.

Millions more dollars were being shifted around, and all the while some of the drug business

was still going on.

He was walking on thin ice, while trying to protect his vast fortune.

The master coder was now trying to encrypt his very existence, but tangible goods arent

as easy to hide as data.

Le Roux was arrested by Liberian police in an operation which included DEA agents posing

as Colombian cartel members.

Hed gone over to Liberia for a meeting with this fake cartel member to sort out a

deal involving a large shipment of methamphetamine.

Then he got stung.

He was handed over to the DEA after the police in Liberia refused to take a bribe.

But Le Roux subsequently agreed to work with the DEA, and so no one actually knew he had

been arrested.

This is what he said, according to Ratliff who was interviewed by Vice magazine, “I'll


I don't want to spend the rest of my life in prison.

What do you want to know?”

Life went on as normal.

He carried on doing his deals with criminals which led to lots of DEA stings.

Many of Le Rouxs associates went down after that.

Some of those arrested were what are called mercenaries and most of those were former

soldiers who had been enforcers for Le Roux, with the most notable of them being nicknamed


According to Ratliff, there were scores of these mercenaries all over the world working

for Le Roux.

Ratliff said they liked the money, but they more than likely loved the thrill of the job.

In 2014 Le Roux pleaded guilty to trafficking methamphetamine, selling technology to Iran,

ordering or participating in seven murders, and also fraud along with bribery.

Since he had helped the DEA arrest many of his associates the U.S. government agreed

to keep his family safe.

He is still awaiting sentencing as we write this, and he might actually get out of prison

at a reasonably young age.

He actually got off the murders because of his cooperation with the DEA in bringing down

killers and other criminals.

What Ratliff likes to point out a lot, too, is that while Le Roux was involved in so much

depravity, blood-spilling, deals with guerillas and mafias, he did most of his work through

his laptop.

He kept his head down and arranged for things to happen with his machine, a machine nobody

including the NSA, FBI, you name it, could crack.

And thats the story of perhaps the worlds most notorious cyber-criminal, a man who in

some ways defied what we think of as a master villain.

A nerd with a nefarious nature, a brilliant mind bent on wickedness and hate, and a story

we guess that has not yet fully been told.

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ones like Paul Le Roux.

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The Description of The Coder Who Became A Criminal Mastermind - Paul Le Roux