Orthodox Jews Smuggling Ectasy?

I was having dinner with a client the other day and after two drinks, as a vector off of a discussion about employee drug testing (he owns a food service establishment), he claimed that it was a little known FACT that Israel manufactures a lot of the worlds illegal ectasy and that the ectasy manufacturers have lately turned to using Orthodox Jews, (Hasidum?)who are traditionally transporting diamonds, as “mules” to carry ectasy.

He said they do this because they are assumed to be “holy men” and customs gives them a pass and that they can carry huge amounts of the drugs in packages under their robes.

This sounded like BS and I don’t remember hearing anything about this but… I don’t know for sure. Anyone know more?

Never mind… I found the link (second google page). Assuming that the linked story is for real at least part of the story is true


I don’t get it.

Is that absurd article supposed to support the “veracity” of your client’s lunatic theory?

From a search at the NY Times:

I won’t pay $2.50, to read old news, but it would seem that there is at least some truth to the claim in the OP.

Well, perhaps, but I sure wouldn’t say that based on one short blurb about “7 Charged…”. Especially given the penchant for members of the mass media for out-and-out lying when it suits them,

I was wondering about the hoards of Hasidics at my local nightclubs raving 'til dawn. And I thought they were all shouting “Acidddic”. Thanks for clearing that up.

Like I said, it seemed to be a BS story to me, that’s why I was asking for any info re it being some kind of goofy UL or being for real. I never heard anything regarding this type of caper and the notion of a group of religious Orthdox Jew’s smuggling ectasy seemed absurd.
I don’t have any hard evidence that the article is absolute fact, that’s why I said “Assuming that the linked story is for real”. At first I thought the article was some real life fiction based on the way it was written but as I read it it seemed to be talking about a real case.

see text from article below

"In early April of this year, after the feds started busting the couriers, the recruiters fled. Levita and Roth flew from New York to Miami, and then to Amsterdam. Roth eventually continued on to Israel and was considered a fugitive before returning to New York and surrendering to federal authorities. Ultimately all seven alleged members of the ring were arrested. Roth and Vandenbranden currently are out on bail after pleading innocent to the charges. Erez and Reicherter are still in the Netherlands, and are contesting their extradition to the United States.

On at least one occasion, the young Hasidic couriers made their trips from Miami, then to New York, then to Paris. The affidavit is unclear as to whether these couriers were recruited from Miami. Linda Lacewell, the assistant U.S. attorney prosecuting the case in New York, says that as far as she knows, Roth and Levita did all of their headhunting among the Orthodox Jewish communities in the New York City area. They focused on their fellow Hasids, but occasionally recruited other Orthodox people (such as the Paris couriers). Although she won’t give an exact number, Lacewell says that, in the five months of its operation, Erez’s Ecstasy ring recruited “dozens of individuals” as couriers, nearly all of them young Hasidic males from the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, and Monsey, New York. Some of them made multiple trips either to Europe with money, or from Europe with Ecstasy.

“The recruiters believed that these couriers would not attract the attention of Customs inspectors because of their conservative background and their religious dress and appearance,” states a press release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York. “The recruiters exploited the youth and relatively sheltered background of their recruits by falsely telling them that they would be smuggling diamonds.”

The image of Hasidic Jews raving on X is so…surreal…I think I have to drink this one off my mind too. :slight_smile:

Why so surprised ? Some Amish were busted in a cocaine deal a year or so ago, IIRC … The lure of illicit lucre attracts all kinds. And ultimately, no stranger than Contras smuggling coke, or Air America carrying opium.

I think there are two thoughts getting garbled here.

First off, just because someone wears “holy garb” or the outer trappings of a spiritual calling doesn’t mean that that person is nice or even law-abiding. I am not surprised that a FEW Hasidic Jews tried smuggling drugs, as I am not surprised that A FEW Roman Catholic priests have sexual relations with minors, or that A FEW pastors steal from their congregations or that A FEW revivalists are swindlers, or … The list could go on.

I suspect that most customs inspectors are not fooled by the holy garb, and know that priests and nuns and pastors and Hasidim and gurus are not immune from succumbing to temptations.

However, I am reading the tone of what astro’s client said as something quite different. As I read it, astro’s client is implying that there is some conspiracy between the Israeli government and the Hasidic organizations, as part of a world-wide drug-smuggling business. I think it’s a far stretch from finding seven or ten or a dozen Hasidic Jews engaged in illegal activity, to assuming a world wide conspiracy by the Israeli government.

Thus, I think, some people reacting to this as nonsense are reacting to the implication that the Israeli government, or Hasidic Jews as a whole, is involved in this. Other people are citing the news articles where a few Hasidic Jews were caught. But I think those are reactions to two different points.

You are correct in the two points issue. Perhaps I should have been more specific. Per my original post when I indicated he said “Israel manufactures” I was trying to accurately paraphrase the conversation and in retrospect, this was a poor choice of words. He did not directly say (or to my understanding) imply the Israeli government was involved or that there was any conspiracy between the government and the smugglers, he was speaking more to the fact that (it was his understanding) that making this drug was a big business “in” Israel. Whether this is fact or not I have no clue.

I also don’t think he would have a particular animus against Israel as he is half Jewish himself (on his father’s side) although admittedly if he was practicing/observant (I didn’t ask) he was pretty lackadasical about it insofar as he ordered a pair of stuffed pork chops at the restuarant.

For the record, if it’s that half of him that is Jewish, then he isn’t really Jewish at all (from any perspective other than Reform).

Dex, thanks for clearing up some confusion. The whole thing is just sort of… yucky. :frowning:

But, I guess you’re right. It is no more surprising that there are stupid Hassidic Jews than it is that there are stupid “anyone else’s.”

A clarifying point:
Ecstasy is not produced in Israel. A certain quality is consumed there, as part of the whole club\dance scene, which has trickles in from Europe - a scene I know little about (I don’t mind the drugs; it’s the music I hate). Most of these drugs are, as far as I know, manufactured in Holland and Germany. Drugs may also go through Israel, en route to other countries, but I can’t confirm that.

I don’t know how widespread it is, but there was an article in New York magazine about this a few months ago (unfortunately, I don’t recall the date it was published) IIRC, the article did imply that some Israeli political group (though not the government itself) was profiting from this, and was using Orthodox Jews to do the transporting.

I’ll try and find the article if I can.

Let’s put the State of Israel thing on the shelf for the moment. ( Happy New Year to all of the Tribe, of course) This really dances around a more fundamental issue. In most societies, people make a blanket assumption based on a uniform. CKDex’s comment was on the mark. We are taught to trust a uniform, and to assume that the wearer will conform to our PRECONCIEVED notions of what she/he should do.

 You see a priest in full garb, including collar, and you make a set of assumptions. You see a Hasid in all black, peyos and a felt hat- and you make assumptions. Of course, this is NOT limited to religious groups. You see a person in a vaguely police-looking uniform, and you step aside. Hell, all I do is volunteer for the local ambulance corps, and because our uniform is quite Official Looking, I'm treated with deference everywhere I go.

But,the religious icons carry with them a special emotional burden, I believe. When I, the Reformed Jew, see a Hasid in town, I am seeing the sum total of my cultural heritage on display. Now, that's probably unfair to that one person, but it is what I see. One sees a priest, and sees the Roman Catholic Church, and a Conduit to God in front of them (so to speak).

Using Orthodox Jews is a brilliant ploy, if it's true. The laws within their sects about being touched by someone who is NOT OF THEIR SECT makes them more complex to examine. The smart Customs Officer would ignore all of those issues, and do the same search that ANY OTHER AMERICAN citizen would endure if suspected of smuggling.

I’d love to find out how these situations are really handled, at JFK or Miami Airports, by Customs Officials. Any Dopers out there work for the Treasury Department?


Well, Cartooniverse, just a minor point to point out. There is no sect who forbids contact with people not of their sect. Most Orthodox Jews, it is true, will avoid contact with members of the opposite sex, but it does not go beyond that.

Zev Steinhardt