The Story Behind a South African Crime Lord testifying in U.S. Court on the Killing of a Filipina Real Estate AgentRead Now
In 2018, Paul Le Roux, a white Zimbabwean who held South African and Australian passports, is a notorious crime lord who illegally trafficked drugs, gold, and guns. He testified in a U.S. court on having a Filipina real estate agent killed. He was known to have murdered numerous people by professional assassins.
Six years earlier from his testimony, Le Roux was arrested by the Drug Enforcement Administration in Liberia. He began to cooperate with the U.S. government as they rounded up and prosecuted his criminal organization members for reducing a possible life sentence.
Around 2011, Le Roux enlisted real estate broker Catherine Lee from Las Piñas City, Philippines, to purchase a vacation property in Batangas for himself and paid her an advance of 50 million Philippine pesos. However, Lee enlisted an unnamed associate to fix the deal, but the associate disappeared with the money.
Like most crime lords, Le Roux is also protective of himself. He employed a private army of mercenaries on four continents to protect his assets and kill on his behalf.
Catherine Lee's misfortune with Le Roux's money is not an exception. It made the South African crime lord feel enraged, which made him order his security chief, Joseph Hunter, to murder Catherine.
Afterward, Hunter hired Adam Samia, a former sniper from the U.S. Army, and Carl Stillwell, a firearms instructor. Both men plotted a strategy to kill Catherine and were paid $35,000 each.
Both men traveled to the Philippines in January 2012. They conducted surveillance operations on Catherine's whereabouts.
The murder took place in February 2012. Catherine received an email from Samia and Stillwell. They posed themselves as Bill and Tony, claiming to be Canadians living in Manila and seeking to invest in real estate.
At the time of Catherine Lee's death, she was 43 years of age but looked younger, with a pixie haircut and a welcoming smile. She was friendly and lived comfortably in an upscale neighborhood in Las Pinas City where she and her husband had purchased it not long before, with the help of a particularly large commission she'd earned.
Catherine also had served as president of her local chapter of the Real Estate Brokers of the Philippines and won several trophies and awards.
She worked mostly from home. Much of her business came to her over the Internet—enough, at least, that she would be unlikely to think twice about scheduling a meeting with a client by email. Unfortunately, she missed checking the backgrounds of the two men that contacted her.
According to investigators from the Philippines, both suspects didn't specify what type of property they were looking for, only that they wanted a place located in Southern Luzon; it could be commercial or residential, a vacation property or a ready-to-build lot, as long as it was a solid investment.
As soon as Catherine met with her bogus clients, she drove them from property to property for two days, but the men weren't ready to commit.
For their third outing, on the morning of February 12, Catherine met her clients on the outdoor patio of a Starbucks in Las Piñas, not far from her home. They were joined by three other real estate brokers she'd enlisted to help with the search.
Based on the witnesses' information to local authorities, the suspects arrived in a silver Toyota Innova van. One of the suspects was around six-foot-one, with a beard and a prominent belly. The other suspect was clean-shaven and wore a baseball cap. The group drove to a gated community called Ponderosa, a former flower farm located 40 miles south of Manila, where they examined a lush lot available for residential development. For lunch, they went to Mushroomburger, a well-known restaurant in Tagaytay City, where they were joined by two property owners Lee knew at around 3:30 p.m.
The group then traveled to another farm about eight miles away, in Cavite. They arrived at 4:30 p.m. and wandered around for an hour. When it was time to leave, the brokers and the property owners departed in one car; Catherine joined her two clients in their Toyota Innova, which marks the last time she was seen alive.
The following day, Catherine Lee's body was found in a field in Taytay, Rizal. According to reports, she had been shot four times, a gunshot wound under each eye, which the National Bureau of Investigation suspected to be a signature killing.
Fast-forward to Paul Le Roux's testimony, he helped the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency set up a sting operation in Phuket, Thailand. This led to Joseph Hunter's arrest for conspiring to kill one of their agents and a federal informant. Because the charges, in that case, included a plot to bring cocaine to New York, it was handled by prosecutors in Manhattan. They are also handling the murder in the Philippines because it evolved from the same investigation.
After Hunter's arrest, U.S. authorities also captured Adam Samia and Carl Stillwell for the murder of Catherine Lee in 2015. Both of whom lived in the small town of Roxboro, North Carolina.
After the arrest of Adam Samia, a digital camera was seized from his residence contained surveillance photographs of Catherine Lee's workplace in Las Pinas City, taken in late-January 2012, when he and Stillwell planned the murder.
Authorities also found flight records confirming Samia and Stillwell's whereabouts in the Philippines at the time of Catherine's slaying.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, in 2011 and 2012, Hunter, Samia, and Stillwell agreed to commit murders-for-hire in overseas locations in exchange for salaries and bonus payments for each victim.
In early 2012, Samia and Stillwell traveled from North Carolina to the Philippines, where Hunter provided them with, among other things, information about their intended victims and firearms to use to commit the murders.
After the killing of Catherine Lee, Hunter paid Samia and Stillwell $35,000 to complete the murder. Subsequently, Samia and Stillwell sent thousands of dollars from the payments they received to the United States using, among other methods, structured wire transfers in amounts under $10,000.
In late February and early March 2012, Samia and Stillwell returned from the Philippines to North Carolina, where they continued to reside until July 2015 before getting arrested for the murder of Catherine Lee.
After only two hours of deliberations, a jury in Federal District Court in Manhattan returned a guilty verdict against Joseph Hunter, Adam Samia, and Carl Stillwell.
The government's case against the defendants — presented at an interesting three-week federal trial — was built on Paul Le Roux's testimony.
All three suspects were each convicted of one count of conspiring to commit murder-for-hire and one count of committing murder-for-hire, each of which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison; and one count of conspiring to murder and kidnap in a foreign country and one count of using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, each of which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Samia and Stillwell were also each convicted of conspiring to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum of 20 years in prison.
Moreover, Catherine Lee was not the only person that Le Roux had killed in the Philippines. He also killed his former security chief, David Smith, and several others.
Aside from ordering the murder of several people, Le Roux also facilitated numerous illegal-firearms distribution in the Philippines. One of his shipments was caught by the Bureau of Customs and the Coast Guard in Mariveles, Bataan.
In 2020, The Manhattan court sentenced Paul Le Roux to 25 years in prison. Le Roux is also facing extradition to the Philippines, where he will be charged in connection to the murders carried out by his team of contract killers.
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