— Presents —

The Mastermind: Episode 2

Mastermind-Atavist

One morning in early 2009, a 26-year-old manager of an Israeli customer-relations call center named Moran Oz found himself treading water in a hail of bullets. A moment before, he’d been sitting on the deck of a small yacht, cruising just out of sight of the Philippine shoreline. Then he was in the water, the boat was pulling back around, and the three men he had thought were his boss’s business partners were standing above him. Two of them were armed, and one began firing into the ocean close to Oz. “That was for the sharks,” one said when the shooting finally stopped. “The next time will be for you.”The man was holding a satellite phone. “You are stealing from Paul,” he said. “You need to tell us where you put the money.”Oz felt disembodied and panicked for time. Whatever they thought he’d done, he told them, it was all a mistake. “If I’d done anything,” he said, “I would’ve told Paul.”

When I first heard the outlines of this story, from an attorney in Minneapolis last fall, I initially had a hard time believing it. Later I would learn of incidents even more difficult to comprehend, but at the time it sounded too much like something out of a movie. Then I remembered a couple of things that Joseph “Rambo” Hunter, one of Paul Le Roux’s enforcers, had once said in a conversation recorded by the DEA. “This is real stuff,” he told a new member of an assassination team. “You see James Bond in the movie and you’re saying, ‘Oh, I can do that.’ Well, you’re gonna do it now.”

Then, amid a string of boasts about intimidating and killing people who stole from Paul Le Roux, Hunter said: “We ah… not kidnapped a guy, but we conned him to come with us. We put him in the ocean, shot at him.”


As I tracked down former employees of Paul Le Roux—in Israel and the U.S., the Philippines and Hong Kong and Zimbabwe—many of their stories followed a similar arc. At one moment they’re involved in workaday, seemingly legitimate tasks. Some never even heard the name Paul Le Roux; others thought of him as a brilliant but eccentric and occasionally obnoxious boss. Then something happens—a message arrives, a rumor reaches their ears, they’re told to meet three strangers at a marina—and they realize they’re involved in a sinister world beyond their comprehension. At that point, they face a moral and practical question of how to proceed. For some, how they confront that moment will mean the difference between freedom and confinement. For a few, it will be the difference between life and death…


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