Tuesday, December 6, 2016

JUDGE NEECE, ABDUCTED IN AFRICA, ON WAY BACK TO U.S.

By Juan Montoya
The first indication that things might have been be going wrong for City of Brownsville Municipal Judge Ben Neece on his coffee-buying trip to Toga, in West Africa, was a telephone call a close friend received from him at about 6 a.m. Monday.
According to the friend, Neece said he needed him to send him a few $1,000s to complete the coffee deal.
"He told me some things that made me believe he was sending me a message and someone may be listening," he said.
That was not the only call that Neece made Monday, according to a handful of local attorneys who received a call from him.

At least four have confirmed he called them also asking them to send cash – from $1,000 to $10,000 – to him in Africa. He never mentioned anything about being held by anyone or that he was being forced to make the calls.
But the red flag of the early morning call led friends to contact the Brownsville Police Dept., the FBI, and then the U.S. Dept. of State and the U.S. Embassy in Togo.

Togo is bordered by the Gulf of Guinea, Ghana to the west, Burkina Faso to the north, and Benin to the east. Nigeria borders Benin on the east.

"Shaking westerners down is an industry over there," said the friend who had spoken to him at least four times, the last time being at about 5 p.m. Monday. "If they are professionals, they'll shake down the mark for what they can and then let him loose in the airport for the trip back home. Killing is bad for business and attracts unwanted police action."

After the spate of telephone calls to friends, Neece also texted his friends a Western Union account where they could send any money they could raise. It is unknown how much was collected and whether any was sent.
One source said that after sending between $7,000 to $8,000 overnight, an extra $1,000 was sent to the Western Union account this morning.

Since Neece had to initiate the calls from Togo, friends can only wait for him to either text them or call them. The abductors apparently took his cell phone and computer tablet and he could not communictae after about noon Tuesday. He had told an attorney friend who was negotiating for his release that he was to be put on a plane back home by 2 p.m.

The businessman he was representing, Peter Del Maestro, of Houston, told his law firm partners that he had just gotten off the phone with the FBI and that Neece had reportedly been seen at the Lome airport and that his tickets had been picked up.

"That's what he told us and we didn't want social media to scare them off and change their minds," he said. El Rrun-Rrun learned of the apparent abduction and shakedown facing the municipal judge early Monday after some attorneys called to ask if we knew of anyone else getting telephone calls. Since the negotiations for his release were still in progress through the day and into Tuesday morning, we held off reporting the news until we knew he was safely on board a plane back to the United States.

The cross-Atlantic negotiating between Neece, his abductors, and his friends was conducted from his law office by his law partners Bobby Lerma and Mike Gonzalez. Their staffs were often at the heart of the give and take which often lasted into the wee hours of the morning. There is a seven-hour difference between Brownsville and Lome. After they learned he had been seen at the airport to board the plane, jubilation erupted at the office located at 1000 E. Van Buren.

As of 2 p.m. today, federal authorities informed his business partner that he was on the Air France flight back to the United States.

Neece was on a trip representing businessman Del Maestro to negotiate the purchase of high-quality coffee for import. Coffee is one of the leading cash crops in that nation followed by cotton, palm kernels, copra, peanuts, and shea nuts (karité). Coffee production decreased from 22,000 tons in 1991 to 13,000 tons in 1999. It is speculated that he was to meet with brokers who would acquire the product in Togo or another African nation.
He apparently never checked into the Radisson hotel in  Lome, that nation's capital where he had made his reservations, raising concerns at his law firm.

"It could have been anybody who marked him," said a close friend. "It might have been a spotter at the airport, the secretary of the coffee brokerage house, anyone. It's not a safe place for westerners to travel to."

Del Maestro had previously worked with Neece to try to bring a power-generating plant to San Benito but the deal fell through.

13 comments:

Diego Lee Rot said...

Welcome home judge neece!

Anonymous said...

HOAX! Nobody believes this shit!

Anonymous said...

how much did you send, Juan? He bailed you a hundred time, didn't he? How much did you contribute? tell it, bro! NI MADRE!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Wrong.

Tad Hasse said...

It really happened.

Anonymous said...

Ben is a savvy and experienced traveler. Surprised that he was outsmarted by Africans. I have always said, there is no reasion what so ever to go to Africa. By the way, You can grind your own coffee at HEB these days

Anonymous said...

He might be over there just chilling smoking a nice sack of buds

Anonymous said...

You dumb-ass. What were you thinking traveling to a third-world country alone? Thank God that you were not hurt. Stick to what you do best, being a lawyer and forget about becoming a coffee broker. Now about the $7,000 that we paid to bail you out, when do we get paid?

Anonymous said...

What the hell was Neece even doing in Africa??? On a drinking binge, I'll bet.
Mayim.

Anonymous said...

What happened ,Diego ? Run out of stupid comments ? Ignorant , dumb-ass fool!

Anonymous said...

To Juan Montoya
Thank you for writing about the plight that our Municipal Court Judge Ben Neece underwent in Togo, Africa. Your words of clarity were of help. We have yet to know the disturbing facts that can only be told by Judge Benito Neece when he recovers from this ordeal. Knowticingly from a genuine friend of Ben Neece.

Anonymous said...

Those words coming from you, Tad, discredit the entire story.

Anonymous said...

Shuddup dummy

rita