Dead Man Talking

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.

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.

Ratted out: (clockwise, from upper left) Diana Barrera, Ruben Benavides, Raymundo Gonzales and Jose Maria Galvan.
Ratted out: (clockwise, from upper left) Diana Barrera, Ruben Benavides, Raymundo Gonzales and Jose Maria Galvan.
Ratted out: (clockwise, from upper left) Diana Barrera, Ruben Benavides, Raymundo Gonzales and Jose Maria Galvan.
Ratted out: (clockwise, from upper left) Diana Barrera, Ruben Benavides, Raymundo Gonzales and Jose Maria Galvan.

"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 details. 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.

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