Too Many Grams

Two Broward ladies of the evening go down

Still, in March 2004, attorney Jason Kreiss asked Judge Cynthia Imperato to let his client travel to St. Maarten for a week's vacation after she was released on $15,000 bond. Imperato granted the motion. Three months later, Kreiss again asked Imperato to let Lutz travel "out of the country" for another week, from June 7 until June 14. "Prior to this case, my client had no involvement with the criminal justice system," he claimed. No itinerary or destinations were provided to the court.

"I'm not commenting," Kreiss said blithely when contacted by phone at his Fort Lauderdale office. "My client asked if she could travel, and I filed a motion."

Lutz missed a July 2 calendar call at the Broward County Courthouse in connection with that case. As a result, her bond has been forfeited and a warrant for her arrest has been issued. Lutz's detention in Istanbul put a major dent in her return plans, and at the moment, the capias warrant on file in Broward County would appear to represent the least of her worries. Kreiss, who says he tried a fruitless conversation with her court-appointed counsel in Istanbul, croaks, "I can only imagine what she's going through."

On June 17, following a probable cause hearing, Lantz and Lutz were charged in a Turkish state security court with drug smuggling and export and sent to the Pasakapisi Women's Jail in Istanbul. They will stand trial later this year.

The American consulate general publishes a special document advising citizens about drug offenses in the former Ottoman Empire. "Penalties for violating Turkish laws, even unknowingly, can be quite severe," it states. "Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs are particularly strict, and convicted offenders should expect jail sentences with heavy fines."

As serious as that sounds, it's a massive understatement.

According to the Turkish Penal Code, the pair face terms that mean they could well live out their days in Istanbul. Importing narcotics without a license is good for ten to 20 years. Transferring or keeping narcotics in one's possession is worth another four to ten years of imprisonment.

Then it gets hard-core: Each gram of the substance confiscated tacks on six to 12 years to the sentence. Lutz and Lantz were popped with 25.2 kilograms, which amounts to 25,200 grams.

"If the narcotics referenced are heroin, cocaine, or morphine," the Turkish Penal Code continues, "the punishment given to the perpetrator is doubled."

The code goes on to insist that members of an "organization" committing the crime will see their sentences "increased by one-half." And, unfortunately for Lantz and Lutz, "the conspiracy of two or more people to commit such offenses is considered an organization."

Do the math: Even if an Istanbul judge lets them off easy, Shelly and Suzanne are looking at 453,657 years in a Turkish prison.

The best spot for news and updates on Lantz and Lutz is the general discussion forum on a local escort-service message board, independentgirls.com. The site's patrons have even posted Turkish television images showing Lutz in an airport wearing a business suit with several men leading her away and another of her, wearing a sweatshirt, being directed into a building by a mustachioed official using a cigarette as a pointer. A man claiming to be an acquaintance of the women posted a message on the message board earlier this month. "Shelly was telling me some babble about making money and going to Brazil and Europe, but it sounded kinda bogus," he wrote.

A man using the initials KRS tried to send word to Lutz through the U.S. consulate general in Istanbul. He received a letter (which he posted on the site) that stated, "Unfortunately, the Turkish prison system does not permit prisoners to receive phone calls."

When a New Timesreporter e-mailed a message to KRS, a man with a Texas accent called back almost immediately. "I was living with Suzanne, paying rent at her house in Delray from April until two days before she left for Brazil," he said. That's where Lutz was, he claims, when they spoke via Nex-Tel two-way radios on June 12. He describes Lutz as a naive, trusting, single mom prone to making bad decisions.

Lutz "knew there was some smuggling going on," KRS confirms. "But she was told it was only paper -- bank securities -- that were gonna be stuffed in the lining of an extra suitcase, identical to the one she'd be using." Says KRS, "Unknowingly, she got set up and busted."

Neither Lutz nor Lantz has so far provided a "Privacy Act Waiver" releasing more details to U.S. officials, and no word has come out of Turkey regarding their case since late June. In the pages of South Florida's voluminous crack-whore history, Lantz and Lutz constituted standard-issue, stereotypical fare. But now their story will probably make Charlize Theron and Courtney Love pack on the pounds so they can play Lantz and Lutz in Midnight Express II -- The Reckoning.

Coming soon to theaters near you.

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