On almost every corner in the five boroughs, someone can be found mumbling to or signaling possible cigarette smokers that packs and “looseys” are for sale far below the current store price. Illegal cigarette sales are another subculture within society, very similar to drugs, except with cigarettes, it’s only illegal when not taxed by the government.
Corner cutters have found a way around the high cigarette taxes in New York for a decade, traveling to tobacco producing states where cigarettes are cheaper and transporting thousands of cartons into the city. After state Attorney Eric Schneiderman announced today that 16 Palestinian nationals have been charged with enterprise corruption among other charges for bringing over a million cartons of cigarettes into NYC, NYPD Commissioner Kelly stated that he fears that the money they netted could be used to fund terrorist organizations.
“While it hasn’t been established yet where the illicit proceeds ended up, we’re concerned because similar schemes have been used in the past to help fund terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah”, said Kelly. “By cheating New Yorkers out of tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue, this dangerous criminal ring was able to generate astounding profits that we are still continuing to trace”, said Schneiderman.
The alleged leader was identified as Asel Ramadan, 42, of Ocean City, Md. Three handguns and $1.4 million in cash that was stuffed into black garbage bags were found in a federal raid at his home, officials said. Ramadan’s brother, Samir, was also arrested in the conspiracy. Together they allegedly hid more than $55 million in banks in and around Ocean City, and then used some of the dough to buy more cigarettes. The Ramadan brothers and their co-defendants have been under surveillance by the state Organized Crime Task Force and NYPD for months, and search warrants were executed up and down the East Coast.
In their scheme, the Ramadan brothers dodged over $80 million in state taxes. All 16 defendants face no less than eight and no more than 25 years in state prison. None of the accused have yet to be charged with terrorism.
-Sha Be Allah(@KingPenStatus)