His point man in the Netherlands would walk into a bar and say I need 500,000 pills, and maybe he’d pay a pill.
Then those pills would be sold to another distributor for or per pill. Then that person would have either Midwestern-looking folks who they hired to mule the pills over, or sometimes they used strippers — that was really popular — or sometimes they’d put them in container ships and hide them inside auto machinery or a shipment of Dutch tulips.
LS: The yordim in America, who were involved in organized crime, had been pushing marijuana, cocaine, heroin, but they could never make the high-level profits that you could when you were at ground zero for production.
That was all tied up with the Colombian and Mexican cartels, and you can’t muscle in on them. LS: There were a lot of expats living in Encino, the Sherman Oaks area.
They saw that they could get in on the ground level on Ecstasy, that nobody was paying attention in law enforcement and that the demand outpaced the supply, so there was plenty of business for everybody to take a piece. These guys were essentially living really normal lives.
JJ: But a collaboration of American and Israeli police broke this ring, right? Oded Tuito, here’s a guy who was on the president’s kingpin list, and for a while he was living in a cute little house in Woodland Hills. But if not for the help of Israeli police and Spanish police, he would have never been caught. LS: Israeli organized crime has abandoned the trade.
In the late 1990s, Ecstasy was the favorite drug of the party crowd, and the Israeli mafia wasted little time staking its claim. He would never have used Charedi, but there was a rogue dealer who worked for him for a while and then broke off and decided he wanted to make money. He was smart and clever, and decided to go for broke. Sean Erez thought it would be really smart to use these ultra-Orthodox youth, because nobody would actually suspect these really pious-looking teenagers.
Using strippers, elderly folks and Charedi teens as drug-running mules, a handful of Israeli ex-pats operated across Europe and the United States, and made a killing in the Ecstasy business. Some of them really didn’t know what they were doing.Lisa Sweetingham, a former senior staff writer for Court TV.com, details this industry and the investigators who brought it down in her first book, “Chemical Cowboys,” published in February by Ballantine Books. Lisa Sweetingham: Back in 1999, there was a story in The New York Times that caught my interest. They got a free trip to Europe and maybe ,500 in cash and were told to take these suitcases back.It was about these young, ultra-Orthodox teenagers getting caught at JFK Airport with Ecstasy pills wrapped up in socks in their suitcases. I think most of them knew something was off, but Sean would tell them they were smuggling diamonds to the Holy Land.JJ: How did drugs get from Israel to the streets of Los Angeles or a rave in Barstow or wherever?LS: The drugs weren’t made in Israel; instead, they left it up to the Dutch chemists.There were these giant underground labs where the chemists would make the pills.