Pubdate: Thu, 31 May 2001
Source: Houston Press (TX)
Copyright: 2001 New Times, Inc.
Author: Steve McVicker
Note: article originally published on 02 Jan 2001


Ben Guillory helped the DEA bust some east Houston dope dealers.

But he says the agency's cavalier approach has left him a marked man in his 
old neighborhood.

Ben Guillory is a nervous wreck.

Sitting in a purple chair around the blond wood conference table at the 
Houston Press offices, Guillory fears for his life. He is a desperate man 
who sees the paper as his last hope.

It's early February, and Guillory has just come from the law office of Dick 
DeGuerin. The high-profile criminal defense attorney told Guillory there 
was nothing he can do for him except advise him to hide in plain sight -- 
convince some journalist to write a story about his situation.

In DeGuerin's opinion, the publicity might provide Guillory a bit of 
protection from the people he is convinced are plotting to do him in. Now, 
after an introductory call to a reporter from the attorney, Guillory finds 
himself at the offices of the Press.

Guillory explains that his journey into a state of constant paranoia began 
last October when he contacted the local office of the Drug Enforcement 
Administration. Guillory, an admitted illegal-drug user in the past, says 
he was concerned about drug sales to and use by children, so he offered to 
give narcotics agents information about dealers in his far east Harris 
County neighborhood. Guillory agreed to help set up transactions between 
the dealers and DEA agents, and he even claims that he became a registered 
informant. His only caveat was that when it came time to make the busts, it 
be done in such a way that the suspects not realize he had narced on them. 
But instead, Guillory charges, the DEA dropped him in the grease.

He says threats have been made on his life. He is convinced it's only a 
matter of time before he's murdered.

After spending an hour or so listening to his story, you come away with the 
distinct impression that Guillory might have indulged in illicit substances 
a few times too many. He rambles.

He digresses.

He whispers of conspiracies involving former presidents and foreign countries.

He acknowledges having been busted for marijuana possession in his home 
state of Louisiana. Occasionally he weeps as he talks about kids and drugs.

He also reveals that he is currently taking a shopping list of prescription 
medications for work-related injuries, as well as antidepressants. It's 
tempting to simply dismiss Guillory as someone who needs a psychiatrist 
instead of a journalist.

Guillory contends his dream to help the children of his neighborhood turned 
into a nightmare this past December when he arranged for undercover agents 
to purchase a large amount of marijuana from some of his eastside contacts. 
He says the deal went down December 13 in the parking lot of the Wal-Mart 
on the East Freeway. That led to a raid on a house on Falling Tree Court in 
northeast Harris County. In all, five people were arrested.

The problem, says Guillory, was that DEA officials, who did not return 
phone calls from the Press, promised him that there would be no busts, that 
the agents would make several buys before finally bringing down the hammer, 
in order to provide Guillory some cover.

It didn't play out that way. The dealers were arrested, and Guillory says 
he's recently been told there is a contract out on him.

As unbelievable as the story sounds, significant elements of it do pass the 
pee test. A check of criminal charges on file in the Harris County district 
clerk's office confirms that on December 13 members of the Harris County 
Organized Crime and Narcotics Task Force, of which the DEA is a 
participant, arrested five people and seized 2,000 pounds of marijuana in 
connection with raids at the same Wal-Mart and the house on Falling Tree 
Court. Suddenly, Guillory sounds much more credible.

"Now, I'm a walking dead man," says the stocky, graying and fidgeting 
50-year-old Cajun with pathetic hangdog eyes and salt-and-pepper mustache. 
"And what bothers me is that I'm dead because I tried to help the kids. And 
it's all the fault of all those people over there at the DEA."

If he is nothing else, Ben Guillory is a talker.

By his own assessment, the Louisiana native is more than a little 
obstinate, and extremely opinionated. Indeed, he ended up in Houston, he 
says, "because of my mouth." That orifice, which seems to rarely take a 
break, has obviously kept him in trouble here. Because much of the time 
when Guillory is running his mouth, he is usually holding forth on doing 
the "right" thing: saving the kids, exposing union corruption, and ridding 
his eastside neighborhood of the dealers whose drugs he has consumed.

The problem for Guillory is that, sometimes, people just don't want to hear 
it. During a brief departure from his main story line about being a marked 
man, Guillory reminisces about growing up in a shotgun shack on a 14.5-acre 
farm in southwest Louisiana. The closest town was a small community called 
Iowa (pronounced "I-oh-way"). His father provided the family with laundry 
water by exploding dynamite on the property.

"We used to haul water out of those dynamite holes so my mother could do 
the washing," says Guillory. "Our drinking water and our water for cooking 
came from a water cistern built on the side of the house.

I was about six or seven when we finally had a well dug."

But according to Guillory, he almost didn't live long enough to see the 
well. Sort of like the song by Lucinda Williams, Guillory as a small child 
was fascinated by the sound of car wheels on a gravel road. But one day, as 
he lay on the running board listening to the gravel hit the underside of 
the vehicle, there was an accident, and the car ran over Guillory. He 
suffered multiple broken bones, and the hide was ripped from the left side 
of his face.

During the recovery period, Guillory had an extended stay in a body cast. 
The doctors didn't think he would live. Over the years, he went from 
crawling around like a lizard in his cast to, by the age of 15, running 
sub-four-minute miles for his high school track team, a claim that again 
clouds his credibility. By that time, his family had moved to Westlake, 
Louisiana, just across the Calcasieu River from Lake Charles. Although he 
excelled in distance running, he had trouble with his teachers.

He blames it on a reading problem: He read too much. When textbooks were 
handed out at the beginning of the semester, Guillory would take them and 
read them cover to cover in a matter of weeks.

The practice, he says, upset his teachers, who didn't like him getting so 
far ahead of the other students.

While Guillory was still in high school, his father obtained a carpenter's 
union work permit for him. Guillory had found his calling.

He loved construction, and he loved the union.

But once again, Guillory eventually met with resistance. "I was always 
speaking up," he says, adding that he would often accompany the union chief 
to the state capital to lobby for workers' rights.

The chief "loved the way I talked, the way I explained things to people, 
because I was very passionate about it."

But following the passing of his union ally, Guillory's passion for doing 
the right thing soon pitted him against an up-and-coming union 
representative who, according to Guillory, wasn't opposed to cutting a 
corner here or taking a kickback there.

When he revealed this to higher-ups in the guild, Guillory maintains, he 
was blackballed and forced to relocate to Houston, where he went into the 
car-detailing business.

That ended when the Environmental Protection Agency told him to make 
changes in the operation or shut down. Guillory chose to close his shop 
following a back injury that has left him disabled today.

At the same time that his career as an auto detailer was ending, Guillory 
was beginning a long-term relationship with Helen Hum. It was Hum, says 
Guillory, who introduced him to the people who now want him dead.

When it came to Helen Hum, for once Ben Guillory kept his mouth shut. This 
time he let his food do the talking.

It would get him in trouble, too.

In early 1988 Guillory was living on State Highway 249 across the street 
from a salvage yard where damaged cars are auctioned.

While there, he became friends with a wrecker driver who was dating Hum, an 
olive-complected woman with dark black hair and a round face. One day 
Guillory invited the couple and some of his neighbors over for a meal.

"I cooked a pot of crawfish, and she came over," says Guillory. "Then I 
barbecued some ribs, and she came over. Every time I cooked, she was coming 
over more and more often.

She loved my cooking, and that's how we got together."

That June, Guillory and Hum moved in together, first into an apartment on 
Greens Road in north Houston. About four years later they relocated to a 
modest but pleasant house in Galena Park just south of Interstate 10 East. 
It was there that he began meeting the people he now fears.

Although Hum denies it, Guillory claims one of her male friends introduced 
him to several people who also lived in the eastside neighborhood. Those 
people, he charges, turned out to be drug dealers.

"Once we moved in there, he started bringing all of his friends and 
relatives over to the house because he loved my cooking," says Guillory, 
who specializes in Cajun, Mexican and Chinese recipes. "They were all 
constantly eating."

That is, when they weren't smoking dope or snorting cocaine, he says. At 
first that didn't really bother Guillory much. In return for cooking, he 
was given drugs for free. His attitude changed when the regular visitors 
began bringing friends and relatives who were in their teens and younger.

The fact that the youths were allowed to partake of the illegal substances 
offended Guillory's sensibilities. He became even more outraged after 
learning that some of the kids were given drugs to sell at school -- some 
of them by their parents in lieu of an allowance.

"That's when I really started looking around," he says. "They all loved my 
cooking, and that's how I got to know everybody.

And that's how I got to find out who was who."

Guillory decided to contact the DEA. In October of last year Guillory 
simply pulled out the telephone book, found the main number for the 
agency's local headquarters, called it and asked to speak to an agent.

Guillory says he was connected to an agent who agreed to meet him at the 
McDonald's on Post Oak Boulevard. There, Guillory reported the rest of the 

According to Guillory, the agent told him that he stood to make a 
considerable amount of money as an informant if his allegations proved true 
but that the DEA would need the names and addresses of suspects before he 
could be put on the payroll.

Guillory did as requested.

He also learned about shipments of marijuana and coke headed to the Houston 
area. DEA officials apparently were impressed with the information, as 
Guillory claims he was officially signed up as a registered informant.

He went into the DEA office and had his mug shot and fingerprints taken.

But from the beginning, he had a bad feeling about the arrangement.

"It kind of put me off," says Guillory, "because it was as if I was a 
criminal about to be put in jail."

After becoming a full-fledged informant in October, Guillory went to work 
gathering information about planned drug transactions and shipments in 
Houston. Guillory says he was instructed to report to agents Brian Brockman 
and Dan Neal, and he began having meetings with the two men at the Jack in 
the Box on San Felipe at the West Loop. Over a period of several weeks, 
Guillory told the agents about various deals -- some involving cocaine, 
some marijuana -- but his DEA contacts didn't move on the tips. In early 
December Guillory heard about a load of pot headed from Houston to 
Tennessee that seemed to interest Brockman, but he says the agent later 
blew it off, opting for a long weekend instead.

Finally, about a week later, Guillory told the agents that some of the 
eastside people he knew were looking to do business in Louisiana -- a place 
where, Guillory contends, many drug dealers fear to tread because of an 
active interstate interdiction program.

This time the DEA was immediately interested, and Guillory was instructed 
to set up a 200-pound marijuana buy, putting his eastside source in touch 
with a DEA agent posing as a pot dealer in Louisiana. Guillory agreed, but 
on the condition that no arrests would be made, so that the targets 
wouldn't know he had set them up.

"Because if you arrest anybody, I'm dead," Guillory says he told the 
agents. "No ifs, ands or buts about it. I'm dead." Guillory says the agents 
assured him that no arrests would be made, that two or three buys would go 
down before anyone was busted.

But it didn't play out that way.

On December 13 members of the Harris County Organized Crime and Narcotics 
Task Force converged on the parking lot of the Wal-Mart, where they seized 
an undetermined amount of marijuana.

They also arrested three of Guillory's alleged eastside associates. Charged 
with possession of marijuana were 25-year-old Ruben Benavides, 21-year-old 
Petra Munez and 42-year-old Diana Barrera, all of Houston. The charges 
against Munez eventually were dropped. Additionally, charges of possession 
of 2,000 pounds of marijuana were filed against 22-year-old Mexico native 
Raymundo Gonzales, most recently of Rio Grande City, Texas, while Jose 
Maria Galvan, 19, of Roma, Texas, was charged with delivery of marijuana.

Of the five, the Press was able to reach only Barrera, who acknowledged 
being arrested but denied knowing anyone by the name of Ben Guillory.

A couple of days after the bust, Guillory says, he again met at the Jack in 
the Box with Brockman and Neal, who gave him $750 as compensation for his 
role in the takedown.

Guillory was horrified to find out that arrests had been made. He wasn't 
especially pleased to get $750 for his trouble, either.

"They said, 'This is a lot of money,' " recalls Guillory, who begged to 
differ. The agents also allegedly told him not to worry about being 
identified as a snitch -- that he should just go right back among his 
friends and act as if nothing had happened.

But almost immediately he began to receive threats on his life. The 
threats, he says, were relayed to him through Hum's male friend, the person 
who had first introduced Guillory to the drug dealers.

That contact was concerned for his own safety as well as Guillory's. 
Guillory was told that the people arrested knew that he had fingered them 
and that they were going to get revenge. Guillory went into a panic.

To be identified as a snitch is an informant's worst nightmare, and one 
from which the informant sometimes does not wake. As reported in the Miami 
New Times, the Press's sister paper, in the early 1990s during a Miami 
cocaine conspiracy trial, both prosecutors and defense attorneys presented 
evidence that clearly showed that Bernardo Gonzalez was the man who had 
turned on his friends and tipped law enforcement officials to a suspect's 

The next day, both Gonzalez and his brother were killed in what was 
described by police as a professional hit. What Guillory fears is indeed 
real; it doesn't just happen in movies.

When Guillory reported his problem to the agents, he says, they were less 
than sympathetic. So he turned to defense attorney DeGuerin for help. 
Unfortunately for Guillory, DeGuerin told him there's little he can do for 
anyone who decides to lie down with the DEA.

"I could tell when he first came in that the guy was scared," says 
DeGuerin. "And what concerns me, not only about him personally, because I 
am concerned about him, [is that] he could have very easily been dealt with 
by DEA in such a manner that his story never would have surfaced.

But I'm also worried that there must be a number of other people like him 
that they . just throw away like so much used toilet paper."

DeGuerin suggested to Guillory that he find someone to do a story on him 
because, he says, "I've always been of the opinion that a high profile is 
the best protection you have against retaliation. I've always been of the 
opinion that if you're being blackmailed, the best thing to do is take out 
an ad about whatever you're afraid of being exposed so they can't expose 
it. I think the best protection is his being public about it. Then, if 
anything does happen to him, it will be pretty easy to find out who did it. 
And whoever might want to do something might be more reluctant to do so 
because his story is well known. "That includes not the just the persons he 
may have informed against," says DeGuerin, "but the DEA. They are the ones 
from whom I'd expect the real retaliation."

During a recent telephone conversation taped by Guillory, with someone who 
identifies himself as DEA agent Tony Scott, Guillory expressed a similar 
concern. During the call, apparently made by Scott in response to a 
complaint filed by Guillory with the local DEA, the voice purporting to be 
Scott asks the informant to come to the agency's headquarters to get to the 
bottom of the matter.

The result is a circular discussion nearly 20 minutes long during which 
Guillory repeatedly objects to the idea of agent Brockman attending the 

Scott: Sir, we are going to try and get to the bottom of it. So if you come 
down here, you can be interviewed, and we can continue on and do what we 
have to do. Guillory: I will be there, but I am truly afraid of Mr. 
Brockman. Scott: There is no reason to be afraid of Mr. Brockman. Guillory: 
Mr. Brockman is the one who put my life in danger.

And he's going to set it up where there will be some type of accident. 
Scott: Sir, nobody's going to set up anything where there's going to be any 
type of accident.

And most of all Mr. Brockman. Okay? Please come in so we can get this set 
up. That's all I'm going to tell you. You don't have to fear Mr. Brockman. 
He's not going to do anything to put your life in danger. Guillory: He 
already has. He's the one who has put my life in danger as it is now. My 
life is in danger at this time. And it is because of Brockman. Scott: Sir, 
if you come in here and speak to us, that's that. Guillory: Yes, sir. Yes, 
sir. Scott: Okay? Guillory: So y'all are giving me up. Scott: Did I say we 
were giving you up, sir? Nobody's giving you up. I'm telling you to come in 
here so you can be interviewed about these threats you feel have been made 
against your life. Guillory: It's not that I feel they have been made. 
Scott: That's what you're going to be interviewed regarding.

So we can go through some follow-up on whoever you said made the threats.

We do our follow-up investigation. Okay? And we can do what we have to do 
to make sure the threats are gone against your life. Guillory: Well, I 
guess I might as well go ahead and write a last will and testament. With 
Brian Brockman there, I'm as good as dead.

Despite Guillory's foreboding, he did show up for the meeting.

In a windowless, subterranean interrogation room with a concrete floor, in 
the bowels of the building's parking garage, Guillory says, a female agent 
and Brockman asked him questions from a prepared list for about an hour. 
The only interruption, he says, came when a supervising officer walked into 
the room and ordered the female agent to destroy the tape recording that 
Guillory was making of the meeting.

Afterward, the informant felt more vulnerable than ever. The man who 
introduced Guillory to some of the people he set up feels no sympathy for 
the snitch.

"The reason he's stabbing his friends in the back is because he's lazy," 
says the acquaintance and intermediary who asked not to be identified. "He 
doesn't want to work, so he's trying to get money out of the DEA. He uses 
people, and he lies." Asked about Guillory's fear that his life is in 
danger, the friend would say only, "If that's what he thinks.

Who knows what's going to happen?"

Over Easter weekend, Ben Guillory's plight did not get any better.

On the Thursday before Easter, he drove to Louisiana to visit his ailing 
mother. She died on Good Friday. When Guillory returned to Houston to get a 
suit to wear to the funeral, he discovered that he had been evicted from 
the house that he had shared with Helen Hum.

Earlier in the week, Hum had gone to family court and won a restraining 
order against him. During a break in the hearings, Hum had little to say 
about Guillory except to suggest that "Benny's problem is he always thinks 
he's right."

Attorney Deborah Lozano, who took pity on Guillory and is representing him 
pro bono, says her client eventually may be able to stake a partial claim 
to the house, and perhaps some money from its sale, if the lawyer can prove 
that Guillory and Hum had a common-law marriage.

But for now Guillory is homeless, and that means he's exposed.

"If I end up dead, it's going to prove that the DEA allowed this to 
happen," says Guillory. Of course, some people might say he has it coming.
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