A free press is one of the key elements in maintaining a healthy democracy and in-depth investigative journalism is a crucial aspect of a free press. Elaine Shannon is one of our truly gifted investigative reporters. It was really a pleasure to interview her about her new book. Here's my review of it which ran recently in the Cox Ohio newspapers:
When I picked up a copy of "Hunting Leroux - the Inside Story of the DEA Takedown of a Criminal Genius and His Empire" by Elaine Shannon I was initially somewhat puzzled. I wondered; who is Leroux? I could not recall ever hearing about him before? Apparently there's a good reason his story had been unknown. Until now.
Elaine Shannon answered most of my questions in her excellent new book. After I read it I asked her where is Leroux now? I learned Leroux remains in custody. He has been tried, convicted, and awaits sentencing.
Shannon conducted extensive interviews with many of the people who were involved in the apprehension of one of the most amazing cyber-criminals of our time, a man named Paul Leroux.
This is the story of how an elite force within the US Drug Enforcement Administration, the 960 Group, tracked down an elusive criminal genius and figured out a way to lure him out of hiding then capture him. It wasn't easy.
First they had to realize that Paul Leroux actually existed. Leroux was born in Africa in the former British colony of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and as a young man he became an expert in devising and administering computer security systems. His expertise gave him an advantage when he turned to a life of crime as he became a shadowy figure who rarely left any digital fingerprints behind.
He created websites that were mail order marketplaces for prescription pills. A paid network of doctors (and non-doctors) issued bogus prescriptions for his customers. Early on he was peddling sleeping aids, and products like Viagra and was careful to avoid selling opioids because he knew that could attract scrutiny from the DEA.
He had telemarketing centers set up to call his established customer base and sell them even more pills. He found ways to divert buyers away from his competitors. This master of the Dark Web was already amassing hundreds of millions of dollars. But that wasn't enough for him.
Leroux began dealing in many illegal and lucrative products. He was doing business with Iran. He plotted to buy weapons from the Iranians to sell to terrorists and guerilla groups all over the world. He was buying pharmaceutical grade meth from a factory in North Korea.
This evil mastermind owned yachts and penthouse apartments but he was also a cheapskate. His luxury dwellings were sparsely furnished. Leroux was a big guy. He weighed over 300 pounds and relished junk food. Big Macs were a favored meal.
He was also paranoid and extremely jealous. He hired mercenaries to assassinate his own employees. As the DEA finally caught up with him he had a research group of scientists actively working on designing missile guidance systems for Iran.
Read the book to find out how they ultimately trapped him. They got lucky, a guy who had been very close to Leroux became a vital informant. "Hunting Leroux" is a dramatic and thoroughly captivating read.
The Book Nook on WYSO is presented by the Greene County Public Library with additional support from Washington-Centerville Public Library, Clark County Public Library, Dayton Metro Library, Wright Memorial Public Library, and Microsun Lamps.