‘Arms and the Dudes:’ New Book, Film Detail How Ex-Orthodox Yeshiva Guys Became Top Suppliers for Afghan Army
A new book and its upcoming film adaptation tell the true story of how three former yeshiva students who habitually smoked marijuana scored a $300 million contract from the U.S. government to supply weapons for the Afghan Army, the New York Daily News reported on Sunday.
Arms and the Dudes details how the Miami Beach potheads became “the most unlikely gunrunners in history,” according to the book’s author, investigative reporter Guy Lawson.
The tale begins with Efraim Diveroli, nephew of celebrity Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, being kicked out of school in Miami at the age of 14. He was then sent to Los Angeles to live with another uncle of his, who was a domestic arms dealer. Young Diveroli became interested in the arms business and by 16 he was a traveling salesman.
He returned to Miami after a fallout with his uncle and set up AEY, a company focused on securing defense contracts, the Daily News reported. A Mormon businessman provided the financing and Diveroli partnered with a Swiss arms supplier who had access to weapons stockpiled in the Balkans.
Diveroli then started bidding on contracts to ship munitions to Iraq. He did over $1 million in business in 2004, and in 2005 that figure rose to $7.2 million, according to the Daily News. That year, he enlisted his yeshiva friend from Miami, David Packouz, to be vice president of AEY.
Lawson said the men would “wake and bake” each morning, slang for smoking marijuana early in the day, before heading to the office. Nights were often spent clubbing while high on cocaine.
In 2006, the U.S. was pressed with the need for ammunition to arm the Afghan Army. The Afghans only had old-era Soviet bloc weapons and had used up huge stockpiles of their ammo, the Daily News reported. Bush administration policy made it illegal to do deals with Russia or China, so the U.S. turned to arms dealers on FedBizOpps, the federal weapons procurement site.
A contract posted on the website at the time, valued at $300 million, called for 100 million rounds of ammunition for AK-47s, millions of rounds for SVD Dragunov sniper rifles, aviation rockets and more to arm the Afghan Army. The specification was listed as “serviceable without qualification” allowing for less restrictions than usual. Diveroli, interested in securing the lucrative contract, agreed to take only 9 percent commission, rather than the industry norm of 10 percent, and AEY won the contract. He then assigned Packouz the job of sourcing the munitions.
Small-time cannabis dealer Alex Podrizki, another former yeshiva student, then joined Diveroli and Packouz as their contact in Albania. “The dudes” were now a central component in the Afghan war, according to Lawson. The Pentagon trusted the guys with “a significant portion of the fate of a nation.”
Everything went south for “the dudes” with a deal in Tirana, the capital of Albania, where they repackaged 2 million rounds of ammo to shed Chinese lettering on the wrappings. The ordnance had been in Albanian hands for decades, the Daily News said, but its Chinese imprint put the “dudes” on the wrong side of the law.
Shortly afterwards a jealous competitor prompted a Defense Criminal Investigative Service probe and the Afghan Army was forced to find a new ammunition supply, which took months and left them fighting a war under-armed.
Diveroli was sentenced to four years in jail on Jan. 4, 2011, while Packouz and Podrizki were placed under house arrest for a number of months.
Arms and the Dudes goes on sale June 9 and Todd Phillips, director of The Hangover, is shooting its film adaptation. Jewish actor Jonah Hill will star as Diveroli.