Audrey Lorber is a college student who lives in New York City who was arrested in Russia on charges accusing her of possessing several grams of marijuana, which her family says was for medicinal use, Russian authorities have reported. The cannabis was discovered in Lorber’s luggage during a search at Pulkovo Airport in St. Petersburg, according to a news release from the Moscow District Court of St. Petersburg.
Authorities have not said when exactly the 19-year-old Lorber was detained, but that she pleaded guilty on an unspecified date. The district court has officially registered a criminal case against Lorber. Photos on Lorber’s social media pages show that the film student was in Russia with her mother on a trip this summer. Rochelle Lorber has been fighting for her daughter’s release, according to Lorber’s hometown newspaper, the Staten Island Advance.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. 19 Grams of Marijuana Were Found in Lorber’s Baggage, Authorities Say
On September 2, brief information about Lorber’s case was released by the Moscow District Court on the encrypted messaging service Telegram. The release states that Lorber had acquired 19.05 grams of cannabis in the United States at “an unspecified time,” and kept it with her for “personal consumption.”
“Cannabis was discovered in her things during the search in Pulkovo,” the court reported, adding that medical marijuana documentation Lorber had was not valid in Russia. “The patent held by the accused for the use of marijuana as part of a medical program, filed in the United States, does not apply to the territory of the Russian Federation.”
Lorber later pleaded guilty to the charge she was given, the court said. She has not been sentenced.
2. Audrey Lorber Is a Staten Island Native & Film Student at Pace University
Lorber studies film at Pace University in New York City, according to several of her social media profiles. Lorber’s second Instagram page showcases examples of her work, including various photos edited on Photoshop.
Lorber, who is originally from Staten Island, also works at Waterside Restaurant in Tottenville, New York. Lorber’s boss at the restaurant, Joey Guli, told The New York Post that the college student hopes to make it in the film industry. “All my customers love her,” he added.
Lorber’s mother, Rochelle, is “hysterical” over her daughter’s arrest, Guli said.
“[Rochelle] moved out there and got an apartment just to try to get [Lorber] on house arrest, but they didn’t give it to her,” he said. “It’s disgusting what they did. They are trying to throw the book at her.”
3. Lorber & Her Mother Were Vacationing in St. Petersburg in July, Social Media Photos Show
Though Russian authorities have not provided any details about when Lorber was arrested or where she is being held, social media posts help to shed some light on the timeline of her arrest.
Photos posted by both Lorber and her mother show the duo touring through Russia this summer. The two visited Palacio Nicolaievsky in St. Petersburg in late July, and the last photo Lorber posted on Instagram was on July 22.
4. Lorber Could Face Jail Time or a Hefty Fine
Congressman Max Rose, who represents Staten Island, tweeted in support of Lorber’s release on Saturday. “I’m working to help get Audrey home as soon as possible because no American citizen should be held in jail for a medical condition,” he wrote.
Despite gaining support from politicians stateside, Lorber could face jail time in Russia, a roughly $600 fine, or other punishments, according to the Russian Criminal Code.
Lorber is accused of committing a crime under Part 1 of Article 228 of the code, which may be punishable with a “fine in an amount of up to 40 thousand roubles…or by compulsory works for a term of up to 480 hours, or by corrective labour for a term of up to two years, or by restriction of liberty for a term of up to three years, or by deprivation of liberty for the same term,” the code states.
5. Other Americans Have Been Detained in Russia for Possession of Marijuana
Naama Issachar, a 25-year-old Israeli-American woman, has been jailed in Russia since April. After a backpacking trip in India, Issachar was stopped by police while boarding a connecting flight to Tel Aviv in Moscow.
Russian authorities said they found 9.2 grams of cannabis in Issachar’s checked baggage, but she denied knowing how the marijuana got there. While Issachar was initially only charged with possession, her charge was changed to smuggling narcotics a month later.
Family members have also expressed concern about being able to communicate with Issachar, and said Russian authorities have only allowed limited phone calls and visits. Meital Lazar, Issachar’s cousin, told Ynet that her cousin is “being treated like one of the biggest criminals in Russia.”
Issachar remains in custody.