15 Palestinian men have been arrested in New York on the charges of running a multi-million-dollar cigarette smuggling ring in the city. Alleging that three of these Muslim men had links to known terrorists, all of these people used to sell those cigarettes, which had been smuggled from Virginia in more than a million untaxed cartons, in grocery stores. The money amounting to $55 million is exposed so far.
Similar rings have been busted in the past which supplied money to Hamas, the government of Gaza and Hezbollah, the Lebanese group of Shiite militants. Search is going on to find out the destination of the money involved in this identified ring.
State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman confirmed that some of the members of this group had ties to identified terrorists and weapons have been confiscated from them. Accordingly, these people have been condemned with charges of enterprise corruption and other charges, he said.
According to the officials in the press conference, this smuggling cost $80 million worth of tax to the government of the U.S. The official sources reported that two brothers Basal Ramadan and Samir Ramadam, both living in Ocean City, Maryland, ran the ring. They were running a couple of Local Subway Franchisee. After their arrest, the search team found $1.5 million in cash hidden in Basal Ramadan’s apartment in plastic bags and some of it in his car. They also found three handguns with the cash. Also 20,000 cartons of cigarettes have been seized from his house, cars and store.
The Brothers used to smuggle these cigarette cartons from a wholesale dealer in Virginia and stock them in a store in Delaware. From here, Adel Abuzahrieh used to get them distributed and sold.
One of the suspects was running a business back in 1990s supported by Omar Abdel Rehman, a blind cleric also known as Blind Sheikh who is currently serving life sentence for involvement in a plan to blast New York City Landmarks. Another one of them, Muaffaq Askar, had alleged connections to Pashid Baz, who fired on car full of students in Brooklyn Bridge in which a 16 year old yeshiva student had died. In total, 15 men have been arrested and one has been absconding.
James T. Hayes Jr., special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations this alleged scheme points toward a host of other criminal acts that threaten national security and public safety of Americans at home and abroad.