The incredible true story of 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 morphed 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, government could break them.
The man behind it all, pulling the strings from a laptop in Manila, was a reclusive South African named Paul Calder LeRoux - a 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 law enforcement had never imagined. For half a decade, the DEA 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 they finally did, the story turned again, as Le Roux struck a deal to bring down his organization and the people he 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.
About the Author
Evan Ratliff is an award-winning journalist and the co-founder and former editor-in-chief of The Atavist Magazine. As a longtime contributor to Wired, The New Yorker, National Geographic, Outside, and other magazines, he has reported from around the globe on transnational crime, science and technology, the environment, terrorism, and corruption. He is a two-time finalist for the National Magazine Awards, and his writing has been selected for numerous Best American collections.
His 2009 Wired 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 best stories in its history. He also cohosts the acclaimed Longform podcast and was a founding editor of Pop-Up Magazine, a live journalism event that tours the United States. He is the co-author of Safe: The Race to Protect Ourselves in a Newly Dangerous World, about innovation and counter terrorism, and the editor of the collection Love and Ruin: Tales of Obsession, Danger, and Heartbreak.
"As directors, we spend countless hours imagining heightened plots and memorable characters that will leave a lasting impression on audiences. The true tale of obsession, genius, intrigue, and vengeance detailed in The Mastermind is as gripping and cinematic as anything we could endeavor to conjure up." - Joe and Anthony Russo, directors of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War, and Avengers: Infinity War