In October 2019, Dr. Lukas Fecker, the Swiss CEO of a company that buys up and restructures failing businesses, opened WhatsApp and sent an encrypted message to Justin Causey, an American private security contractor. Per court documents, Fecker asked if Causey could help him collect a debt, warning that violence might be necessary.
Fecker then allegedly told Causey that there had been some trouble with an organic farm in Macedonia and that a German man living in the Netherlands, Thomas Schwarz, had stolen three million euro from him.
“I’m in,” Causey responded.
A month later, Causey’s first two attempts to collect had failed, and court documents indicate that Fecker was less than pleased. Causey messaged Fecker that he didn’t have the manpower for the job; he needed well-trained muscle. His solution was to hire a team of former military men who he was certain could help get the job done.
“I lose the company next Thursday, and have no right to claim from Schwarz thereafter,” Fecker allegedly texted Causey. He said that Schwarz was “a milksop, did not employ bodyguards and should have been an easy target.” The money had to be collected in the next few days, he said. No more excuses.
Court documents show that Causey reached out to Jacob Mazeika, a former U.S. Army Ranger who he had served with and knew to have completed two tours in Afghanistan with the 101st Airborne and one tour in Iraq as a member of the National Guard Military Police. Mazeika had suffered injuries from an IED explosion and post-traumatic stress, but that hadn’t stopped him from globe-trotting as a private military contractor for organizations combating human-trafficking. The now 38-year-old allegedly accepted the offer and reached out to William Johnson, a sheriff’s deputy in Forrest County, Mississippi he’d served with, to join the effort, too.
Causey finally had his team.
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Thomas Schwarz owned a failing organic agricultural operation in northern Macedonia. In 2014, Schwarz’s company, Taurus Farms, invested five million euros to build what he called an “ultra-modern bio-plantation.” But Taurus Farms hit trouble a year later when an employee was reportedly discovered to be working with a local inspector and two members of the Chamber of Commerce to get around trade restrictions to Russia by exporting European agricultural products as re-labeled Macedonian products.
It’s unclear why Schwarz owed money to Fecker. But law enforcement believes it’s because Fecker was a turnaround expert and the bio-plantation was rumored to have hit financial trouble.
On November 23rd, court documents show that Causey and Mazeika sent encrypted messages discussing their plan and how difficult it would be to “grab this guy.” Causey allegedly gave Mazeika the rundown, saying that “if the door closes and the street is clear, we take the key and open. Brachial stun makes one quiet.”
Mazeika messaged back that he felt confident it would be “easier to bum rush” Schwarz and then “shove him back in fast.” He had other ideas as well — like pretending to be a delivery person with a package.
When it was time to set their operation into motion, Fecker’s wife allegedly purchased two plane tickets for Mazeika and Johnson. The two vets flew out of Newark, New Jersey to Düsseldorf, Germany, where Causey met them. One of Schwarz’s neighbors in the Netherlands would later recall to police that four or five weeks earlier, Schwarz had returned home only to discover two men waiting for him. The men spoke English and were loud enough that the neighbor overheard their conversation — they wanted money from Schwarz. But the organic farmer refused. Finally, one of the men warned that another man, who “was not as friendly, would return to request money from him.”
Now, it seemed, that day had arrived.
In the quiet, early morning of November 26th, a few of Schwarz’s neighbors say they spotted a Volkswagen Polo pull up alongside the curb, stop and park. Two men climbed out and a third stayed behind in the car. One of the neighbors heard “the victim’s front door slam as well as various voices of different people in the victim’s home, some speaking German.” A second witness recognized Schwarz’s voice and someone else they believed to be his girlfriend.
The first witness “heard a loud bang, and yelling coming from the victim.” The second ran over to the house to see what all the noise was about. They rang the doorbell, but were met with silence. They waited there for a nervous moment, but still — nothing. They stepped away from the door, went over to a living room window and peered inside. They couldn’t see much, but they did spot a man hunched over at the waist and clutching what looked to be a blanket or sheet. A woman was with him.
It was wholly unclear what was going on. But since the shouting had subsided, the neighbor left and walked back toward their home. That’s when they noticed the Volkswagen Polo had moved. It had been parked at the corner. Now it was pulled up right in front of Schwarz’s residence. Shortly thereafter, the front door to Schwarz’s house swung open, and then slammed shut again. One of the neighbors spotted a woman leaving, who then climbed into the Volkswagen Polo and sped off.
Fifteen minutes later, another neighbor saw the Volkswagen Polo drive back, idle and leave again, only to return within 20 minutes. At that point, two men approached the car and jumped in, after which the Volkswagen Polo sped off for a final time, disappearing into the stillness of the morning.
Inside the residence, Thomas Schwarz lay dead on the floor.
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When Schwarz failed to show up to work, one of his colleagues stopped by his home to check on him. When he arrived at Schwarz’s place, he found the front door open with blood on the handle and immediately called the police, who found Schwarz’s body “next to his dining room table, with his hands and feet tied with wire and his body surrounded by blood,” according to court documents.
Near his body, they discovered a laptop and his wallet with several credit cards still inside. Schwarz had been stabbed numerous times in his right upper leg and right arm, and his throat had been slit as well. He’d also sustained severe trauma to his back and multiple broken ribs.
After talking to neighbors, the Dutch police contacted the German authorities. It didn’t take long for their investigators to catch a lead with a rental car agency. The day before the murder, Fecker and Causey allegedly walked into Call & Drive Autovermietung and rented a Volkswagen Polo with a license plate that matched witnesses’ description, employees told the police. The rental agency gave the police security camera footage of the two men, and said Causey returned the car the day after the murder. Per court records, he had memorably told the staff that “he had cleaned the floor mats but he had forgotten to put them back in the car before returning it.”
Dutch police technicians discovered that there were “trace amounts of blood in the car,” and phone records indicated that Causey had been in the area on the morning of the murder. All of which was enough to launch a full murder investigation with Causey as the primary suspect. The problem was, he no longer was in the Netherlands — or Germany. He’d fled back to the U.S.
The day after the murder, Causey texted with his then-girlfriend. He cautioned her that he was about to erase everything from his phone. She asked him why. According to court documents, Causey texted her, “Why??? I don’t feel good about this last job, hon. It was sloppy. I hope we didn’t do something that is going to catch up to me. Last time I’ll mention it.”
For his contribution, Johnson was paid $10,000. But Fecker’s wife had allegedly paid him in euros, which he had to convert into cash, leaving an easy-to-discover money trail that authorities would use to connect Fecker and his wife to Johnson, Mazeika and Causey. Mazeika, though, had to pester Fecker for his money, texting him a month or so later that he still hadn’t been fully paid, according to court documents. Fecker allegedly responded that he’d wire the money, a second money trail.
For Causey, the payday was always going to be much bigger. He allegedly texted his girlfriend that he’d earned almost a quarter of a million bucks for the short-term gig. “The work, though… Lord,” he texted.
“That’s a lot! As long as you’re OK, I’m OK,” she responded.
“I’m good. It’s just a job.”
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When the FBI caught up to Johnson, he was back working as a sheriff’s deputy in Mississippi. He was charged with 19 counts in the Netherlands, chief among them aggravated manslaughter. On July 26th, Johnson’s extradition trial in the U.S. determined that, under U.S. law, the evidence presented met the criteria for extradition to the Netherlands. Johnson has admitted his culpability in the death of Thomas Schwarz, telling FBI agents he was fully aware he was being paid to ensure that Schwarz pay his debt to Fecker and that if he didn’t, he’d be met with violence.
Mazeika was arrested in Bristol, Connecticut, by U.S. Marshals acting on a warrant for his arrest. He was also determined fit for extradition to the Netherlands, which he didn’t oppose. However, Mazeika insists he’s innocent, with his lawyer saying, “While Mazeika consents to extradition, he, a disabled veteran who has honorably served his country on three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and has dedicated his life since to charitable causes, professes his innocence of these charges and looks forward to his exoneration through the Dutch legal system.”
Meanwhile, Lukas Fecker was arrested and detained in Europe and is awaiting trial in the Netherlands, as well.
Law enforcement agencies followed trails for the case across the globe — from Mississippi to Macedonia to Germany to the Netherlands — and now they hope the accused all end up in the same place: prison.