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The alleged mastermind of a major Ecstasy smuggling ring that used Hasidic Jews as couriers to get past customs inspectors at New York’s Kennedy Airport will be brought to Brooklyn, N.Y., from the Netherlands to face drug charges. Sean Erez — accused in a federal indictment of heading a ring that flooded the East Coast with more than 1 million pills — has exhausted all extradition appeals in the Netherlands, authorities said Wednesday. Erez, 30, and his girlfriend, Diana Reicherter, 22, were arrested in Amsterdam in 1999 and “opposed extradition on the grounds of their alleged psychiatric condition,” prosecutor Linda Lacewell said in court papers. A spokesman for the Dutch Ministry of Justice, Victor Holtus, said Erez and Reicherter would be sent to Brooklyn “very shortly.” Authorities allege Erez, an Israeli, recruited Hasidic youths as couriers in the belief their conservative look — black hats, dark suits and sidecurls — would deflect the attention of inspectors at Kennedy. Erez is also accused of laundering millions in drug proceeds. If convicted of drug conspiracy and money laundering charges, Erez and Reicherter could get up to 20 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines. A call to an attorney representing Erez in New York was not immediately returned. Couriers were offered free trips to Europe and about $1,500 if they agreed to retrieve packages they were told contained diamonds, prosecutors said. Instead, each shipment consisted of 30,000 to 45,000 pills of Ecstasy — a synthetic drug that combines the effects of amphetamines and hallucinogens. Ecstasy is manufactured in Amsterdam at a cost of 50 cents to $2 a pill and retails for $25 to $30 in New York City, according to federal authorities. The couriers allegedly smuggled proceeds back to Amsterdam in suitcases holding as much as $500,000. So far, seven of the couriers have been arrested and have pleaded guilty to drug charges. Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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