Too Many Grams

"If you get busted for drugs over there, you're in for the hassle of your life."

-- ominous, 1970s-era

U.S. Public Service Announcement

Last month in Istanbul, two Broward County women made history when they were arrested in what is reportedly Turkey's biggest drug bust ever. The incident has gone unnoticed by the American media, but those who heard the tale were inevitably reminded of Billy Hayes' harrowing experience in the film Midnight Express. In the 1978 movie, the young American tourist is arrested trying to board a plane at the international airport in Istanbul with two kilos of hash taped to his torso. After calling his captors "pigs" during his kangaroo-court trial, Hayes gets hauled off to a hellhole of a prison, where he's brutalized. If memory serves, the picture didn't exactly paint Turkey as a party destination. In fact, those Turks seemed to take a dim view of dope-smuggling. A real dim view. And the xenophobic flick didn't do much to improve U.S.-Turkish relations.

By most accounts, Suzanne Kathleen Lutz and Shelly Ann Lantz have probably seen the movie but tried to copy it anyway. Both Deerfield Beach blonds have been arrested with cocaine -- Lantz in 1995 and 1996 and Lutz in 1999 and 2003 -- and many who know them classify them as classic, dull-witted crack addicts. So the pair surprised many when they turned up at Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul on June 13. Lutz allegedly had 23 packets of the drug, totaling 25.2 kilograms, in her luggage. Lantz, apparently waiting outside the gates, was also nabbed. Newspaper reports indicate the two had traveled from South Florida to Brazil, then Frankfurt, Germany, and then on to Turkey. The coke's street value is $5 million to $8 million.

Back here, both women promoted their escort services in local magazines. Although neither had prostitution-related arrests in Florida, Ralph Teetor, a Pompano Beach gadfly who publishes the Pynk Pages, provided copies of advertisements the pair ran with him in the spring of 2003. He describes Lantz as a "friendly, gregarious girl."

She's the classic heart-of-gold hooker, Teetor says." "She'd take in destitute hookers and let them stay with her. She was just a happy, blond broad who hooked to finance her drug habit." In the Pynk Pages, "Sexy Shelly" billed herself as a five-foot-six, 130-pound 38-year-old, adding, "If you want a lady who will make you feel like you just won the lottery, give me a call."

According to public records, Lantz, born on Tax Day 1962, wasn't 38 but 41 years old in 2003. That three-year fudge is less of a stretch than Lutz's claiming to weigh only a buck-oh-five. When she was arrested in Pembroke Pines last year, Lutz's driver's license said the dishwater-blond 43-year-old tipped the scales at 170.

Of course, it's hard to know what to believe with these two. Perhaps hardest to believe is that a pair of ham-handed, South Florida sex pros are, as reported by Turkish wire services, the biggest dope smugglers in Turkish history.

Lantz owns the more distinguished rap sheet of the pair, albeit with nothing to indicate the intelligence, ingenuity, or craftiness to have taken a role in a sophisticated smuggling operation. In February 1994, according to the Broward County Sheriff's Office, she drew attention to herself while slowly driving a stolen rental car through a residential Pembroke Pines neighborhood after dark with its lights off, smoking crack. Declared indigent and appointed a public defender, Lantz pleaded guilty to cocaine and paraphernalia possession, paid a small fine, spent ten months locked up, and lost her driving privileges for two years. The car-theft charges were dropped when it turned out a male companion had rented the car but didn't return it.

The next year, BSO busted Lantz twice, both times for riding in cars with crack and crack pipes. Having violated her probation and flunked urine tests, she was jailed. She begged Broward Judge William Dimitroulous to allow her to enter a drug rehab "ministry" to "focus on my battle of addiction." After completing a stay at Calvary House, she rejoined society.

But Lantz was arrested again in 2002. After servicing a Spanish-speaking man from Long Island and accepting payment, Lutz and a friend dosed the john with a knockout hit of GHB. They stole his wallet and his new Honda Accord and left him unconscious on the shoulder of Sample Road in Pompano Beach. The man was able to describe the car and the women, who were quickly collared. Lantz later pleaded no contest to a grand theft auto charge.

Lutz's capers aren't as interesting as Lantz's but indicate a tendency toward the same bad judgment. In February 1999, police executed a search warrant on her Deerfield Beach apartment and found "an unspecified amount" of crack. According to court records, she pleaded nolo contendere and spent almost a year in Broward County Jail and another 90 days in a drug program. Following that, she was placed on probation, which she proceeded to violate no fewer than six times, even missing a court appearance as the result of a paperwork mix-up.

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Jeff Stratton
Contact: Jeff Stratton