3 ex-GIs on trial for slay of PH broker
NEW YORK — A former US Army sniper and two other American ex-soldiers agreed to become contract killers for an international crime boss who wanted to settle a score with a real estate agent in the Philippines he thought had cheated him on a land deal, a prosecutor said on Tuesday in opening statements at the trial of the three men.
Joseph Hunter, a former sergeant with a Special Forces background, Adam Samia and Carl David Stillwell have denied they planned the 2012 execution-style hit—a case that’s provided an inside glimpse into the secret fraternity of private mercenaries willing to kill in cold blood for cash.
Prosecutors said the 52-year-old Hunter was working as a security chief for weapons and drug trafficker Paul Le Roux, when he recruited Samia and Stillwell to travel from their homes in Roxboro, North Carolina, to the Philippines for what was called “ninja work.”
Hunter provided firearms and silencers and told them Le Roux would pay them $35,000 a piece to get the job done, Assistant US Attorney Patrick Egan told a federal court in Manhattan.
The broker, Catherine Lee, was on a “kill list” that self-styled assassins with military backgrounds saw as a golden opportunity, Egan said.
“If Paul Le Roux wanted somebody killed, these guys got the call,” he said. “For these men, more murders meant more money.”
Samia, 43, and Stillwell, 50, did surveillance on Lee before contacting her, pretending to be potential clients, the prosecutor said.
While returning from a trip to the countryside outside of Manila, Samia pulled out a .22-caliber gun and killed Lee by shooting her twice in the face as she sat in the backseat of a van, Egan said.
Lee’s body was found on a pile of garbage on the side of the road, Egan said. After being paid, her killers were ordered back to the United States, where they were arrested in 2015.
An online report in 2016 by Atavist Magazine quoted Rizaldy Rivera, then head of the Death Investigation Division of the National Bureau of Investigation as saying that “the Mastermind,” referring to Le Roux, ordered the killing of Lee for a failed real estate deal.
Sharing information he had obtained from the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Rivera said Le Roux sought Lee’s services to purchase a vacation property in Batangas, giving her at least P50 million.
But the deal did not materialize because the fixer Lee had instructed to do the paperwork fled with the money.
Rivera believed that the fixer also had been killed but the body was never found.
“And then the Mastermind ordered Lee’s murder, too,” Atavist Magazine reported.
Lee’s body was found by a garbage collector in Taytay, Rizal province.
An investigation turned up a picture on Stillwell’s phone of a bloody head wrapped in a towel that was taken around the time of Lee’s death, authorities said.
Stillwell also admitted being behind the wheel of the van when Lee was shot, they added.
Prosecutors said other evidence included a secretly recorded video of Hunter from a sting in Thailand that resulted in a separate conviction for plotting to kill a DEA agent.
They said Hunter was overheard talking about killing people for Le Roux, including a Filipino real estate agent.
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