Jewish drug peddlers are having their moment. In Holy Rollers, Jesse Eisenberg portrays a young Hasidic ecstasy smuggler who transitions, a little awkwardly, from hapless amateur to seasoned pro. Jonathan Braun, it seems, was a natural pusher. The New York resident was recently arrested by federal authorities for heading a major marijuana trafficking operation. His ties to organized crime allegedly span the country and extend into Canada. When cash was stolen from an organization’s house in California, Braun reportedly whipped a worker with a belt and threatened his family. “He’s the real deal,” a law enforcement source the Daily News. “He’s huge.”
He’s also 27. And he lives with his parents, Orthodox Jews, in Staten Island.
Braun’s squad allegedly shuffled in 110 tons of marijuana from Canada since 2007, channeling the drugs through the Akwesasne Native American reservations upstate. According to the Staten Island Advance, authorities seized $30,000 in cash and “drug ledgers for ‘hundreds’ of marijuana shipments” from Braun’s home. They also nabbed 16 cell phones from the young entrepreneur, who once owned a cell phone store in the borough.
Nearly 60 members of Braun’s operation have been arrested by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. But he was the big get. After an earlier raid of a stash house in Staten Island, Braun apparently fled to Israel. Even there, he still ran the show. And his dealing operation was reinforced by partnerships with crime syndicates in Canada and California, including the Hells Angels.
Yesterday, Braun was denied bail. If tried and convicted, he could be sentenced to 30 years to life in prison.
Either way, the tale of the local drug kingpin should, no doubt, hit a theater near you soon.
Mark Bergen is a journalist based in Bangalore. His Twitter feed is @mhbergen.