A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Thursday, August 1, 2019

TRUE CRIME THURSDAY- The Mastermind by Evan Ratliff- Feature and Review


The incredible true story of the decade-long quest to bring down Paul Le Roux—the creator of a frighteningly powerful Internet-enabled cartel who merged the ruthlessness of a drug lord with the technological savvy of a Silicon Valley entrepreneur

It all started as an online prescription drug network, supplying hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of painkillers to American customers. It would not stop there. Before long, the business had turned into a sprawling multinational conglomerate engaged in almost every conceivable aspect of criminal mayhem. Yachts carrying $100 million in cocaine. Safe houses in Hong Kong filled with gold bars. Shipments of methamphetamine from North Korea. Weapons deals with Iran. Mercenary armies in Somalia. Teams of hitmen in the Philippines. Encryption programs so advanced that the government could not break them.

The man behind it all, pulling the strings from a laptop in Manila, was Paul Calder Le Roux—a reclusive programmer turned criminal genius who could only exist in the networked world of the twenty-first century, and the kind of self-made crime boss that American law enforcement had never imagined.

For half a decade, DEA agents played a global game of cat-and-mouse with Le Roux as he left terror and chaos in his wake. Each time they came close, he would slip away. It would take relentless investigative work, and a shocking betrayal from within his organization, to catch him. And when he was finally caught, the story turned again, as Le Roux struck a deal to bring down his own organization and the people he had once employed.

Award-winning investigative journalist Evan Ratliff spent four years piecing together this intricate puzzle, chasing LeRoux's empire and his shadowy henchmen around the world, conducting hundreds of interviews and uncovering thousands of documents. The result is a riveting, unprecedented account of a crime boss built by and for the digital age.



The Mastermind: Drugs. Empire. Murder. Betrayal.The Mastermind: Drugs. Empire. Murder. Betrayal. by Evan Ratliff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mastermind: Drugs. Empire. Murder. Betrayal by Evan Ratliff is a 2019 Random House publication.


Catherine Lee was found dead in a dumpster in the Philippines. Charles Shultz, owner of an independent pharmacy and well past retirement age, is arrested by DEA agents. An Israeli- Australian citizen with ties to a major cocaine cartel, leases a warehouse in Hong Kong, which is raided by an organized crime unit.

How were these three incidents related?

Evan Ratliff connects the dots and uncovers a richly layered internet –based crime syndicate overseen by a man named Paul Le Roux- aka- The Mastermind.

I vaguely remember hearing something on the news several years back about FedEx facing criminal charges for delivering illegal prescription drugs. I didn’t follow the story too closely, but I did wonder how people were buying prescription drugs online like that.

Well, this book will explain all that, and it is an incredible story!!

The author begins by introducing the reader to the various groups involved in the entire saga from start to finish: The Investigators, The Operators, The Mercenaries, The Reporter, and The Mastermind.

The chapters alternated between these groups, giving the reader a full, well rounded picture of the entire operation. It took years to bring it down and the journey to that point is shocking, frustrating and often disappointing.

“At times it seemed almost laughable. Here were Brill and Holden in Minneapolis equipped with a couple of desktop computers, some five- by- seven notebooks, and mail drop at FedEx, taking on a global network worth hundreds of millions of dollars, operated by an encryption expert with an unending supply of shell companies, thousands of employees, and impenetrable email servers.”

Without a doubt Paul Le Roux is one of the most diabolical criminal masterminds of the modern era. He was ruthless, greedy, arrogant and apparently without conscience or remorse.

This is a crazy story about crime in the internet age and how hard it is to infiltrate especially with all the encryption software and the ease of global transactions. Since this time, there have been some hardcore crackdowns, but I’m sure once Paul Le Roux and his cronies were out of the way, many more just like him cropped up to take his place.

Joseph Hunter- Mercenary hitman

However, this is riveting true crime story, well organized, and easy to read and understand, which is saying something because it is a very complex international saga and is completely mind boggling!! Evan Ratliff went above and beyond here as an investigative reporter and as an author.

Overall, this is eye-opening crime saga. It reads like fiction, resembling the plot in a bestselling thriller or like something you might see in a movie. Insane- but true!!

True crime readers will not want to pass this one up!






                                             Evan Ratliff is an award-winning journalist and the author of The Mastermind: Drugs, Empire, Murder, Betrayal. A longtime contributor to Wired, The New Yorker, National Geographic, and other magazines, he is a two-time finalist for both the National Magazine Awards and the Livingston Awards, and his writing has featured in multiple Best American collections. His 2009 Wired cover story "Vanish," about his attempt to disappear and the public's effort to find him, was selected by the magazine as one of the twenty-five best stories in its twenty-five year history. He is the co-founder and former editor in chief of the National Magazine Award- and Emmy-nominated Atavist Magazine, currently co-hosts the Longform podcast, and was a founding editor of Pop-Up Magazine, a live event that sells out around the country. He is the co-author of Safe: The Race to Protect Ourselves in a Newly Dangerous World, about innovation and counterterrorism, and the editor of the collection Love and Ruin: Tales of Obsession, Danger, and Heartbreak, from The Atavist Magazine.

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