‘Hunting LeRoux’


Elaine Shannon, William Morrow, 351 pages, $27.99. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration initiated an investigation in 2007 against Paul Le Roux, when investigators in Minneapolis came across Le Roux’s vast network of online pharmaceutical suppliers. It led to the 2012 arrest in Liberia of Le Roux, who has since been linked to gun running, computer hacking and — according to his own testimony — eight international murders. He cooperated with authorities soon after his arrest. Elaine Shannon shrewdly notes in “Hunting LeRoux: The Inside Story of the DEA Takedown of a Criminal Genius and His Empire” that the internet allowed Le Roux to become an international crime boss without “a massive structure of camaraderie, like the Mafia.” That lack of contact perhaps led the cyber-genius to lose the loyalty of several associates. Le Roux, then in his mid-30s, had been a dropout, a computer geek and an inventor of groundbreaking encryption software, then built a gray-market drug empire from scratch. The business was filling thousands of prescriptions by mail, mostly painkillers. It was soon grossing $250 million a year, and Le Roux branched out into overseas logging, gold-buying and money-laundering ventures. In her book, Shannon has spun an action-packed yarn around the DEA sting operations that led to the arrests. Filmmaker Michael Mann owns the film and television rights. Despite its cinematic gloss, Shannon’s book does contribute some worthy observations, for example, the inability of traditional institutions to cope with the globe-straddling crimes of Le Roux.