Multi-Agency Crackdown Leads to 21-Count Indictment Charging 3-Person Cigarette Trafficking Ring with Distributing More than 1.25 Million Untaxed Cigarettes, Evading Nearly $430,000 in Tax Liability.
Brooklyn, NY - October 19, 2018 - Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood today announced the indictment and arrest of three individuals for their alleged roles in trafficking significant quantities of untaxed cigarettes from Virginia to Kings County. In a 21-count indictment unsealed today in Kings County Supreme Court, the defendants were charged with various tax- and money laundering-related crimes for their involvement in the cigarette trafficking network.
“As we allege, the defendants ran a criminal trafficking ring that funneled over 1.25 million untaxed cigarettes into New York – while cheating New Yorkers out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes,” said Attorney General Underwood. “These traffickers are charged with sidestepping the law, which put legitimate, law-abiding businesses at a disadvantage. We’ll continue to work with our partners in law enforcement to hold accountable those who try to game the system and cheat New Yorkers.”
Code-named “Operation Sidestep,” state, federal, and local law enforcement agents concluded a months-long investigation into a network that allegedly evaded New York State and New York City excise and sales taxes by trafficking more than 1,500 cartons of untaxed cigarettes per week from Virginia to be sold in retail shops in Brooklyn. The investigation was led by the New York State Attorney General's Organized Crime Task Force (“OCTF”) in partnership with the Intelligence Bureau of the New York Police Department (“NYPD”) and Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”). It is alleged that a total of approximately 1,255,000 cigarettes were smuggled into Brooklyn, evading a total of $426,700 in tax liability due to New York State and New York City.
“Financial fraud victimizes an unknowing and unwilling public for the unabashed gain of a small handful who know full well their gains compromise the widespread safety, security, and economic health of others,” said HSI Baltimore’s Acting Special Agent in Charge Cardell T. Morant. “I thank the dedicated investigators involved and commend the invaluably productive and efficient partnerships in place that assure these charges will be faced and answered for.”
During the course of the takedown, authorities seized three handguns, one shotgun, three vehicles, and more than $312,000 in cash from the Ramadans’ home in Maryland, as well as more than 341,000 untaxed cigarettes from a storage location in Brooklyn.
The Attorney General's indictment charges the following three defendants with different crimes, including, but not limited to: Criminal Tax Fraud in the Second Degree (a class C felony), Money Laundering in the Second Degree (a Class C felony), and Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree (class E felony), in relation to their involvement in the cigarette trafficking operation:
Basel Ramadan, 47 years old – Ocean City, MD
Samir Ramadan, 45 years old – Ocean City, MD
Fahd Muthana, a/k/a “Ahmed Abdullah,” 39 years old – Brooklyn, NY
Basel Ramadan and Samir Ramadan were arraigned today in Kings County Supreme Court before Judge Danny Chun; bail for Samir Ramadan was set at $2 million cash or $500,000 bond. Fahd Muthana was arraigned on October 11, 2018 in Kings County Supreme Court before Judge Chun. All three defendants’ cases were adjourned to December 19, 2018.
The charges against the defendants are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
The Attorney General thanks the NYPD and Homeland Security Investigations for their partnership.
The Attorney General’s investigation was directed by OCTF Investigator Raymond Almovodar, under the supervision of OCTF Supervising Investigator Paul Grzegorski and Deputy Chief Investigator Christopher Vasta. The Investigations Bureau is led by Chief Dominick Zarrella.
The case is being prosecuted by OCTF Assistant Deputy Attorney General Caitlin E. Carroll, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Diego Hernandez. Nicole Keary is the Deputy Attorney General in charge of OCTF. Margaret Garnett is the Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice.
The NYPD portion of the investigation was led by Detective Christopher McDonnell and Sgt. Robert Olson. The HSI portion was run by Agent Kenneth Oland and Regional Agent in Charge Frank McGarvey.