Officials: Cigarette-smuggling ring may have funded terror group - New York News

Officials: Cigarette-smuggling ring may have funded terror groups

Posted: Updated:

By TOM HAYS | AP

NEW YORK (AP) -- A smuggling ring that made a fortune selling more than a million cartons of untaxed cigarettes in New York may have funneled some of the illicit proceeds to terrorist groups, authorities said Thursday.

The traffickers lived modestly and had alleged links to known terrorists, including Omar Abdel-Rahman, the blind cleric serving a life sentence for conspiring to blow up New York City landmarks. That combination has raised concerns about where the money went.

"We know they made they made tens of millions of dollars but so far we've only found a fraction of that," state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said while announcing enterprise corruption and other charges against 16 people, all Palestinian immigrants.

Two reputed ringleaders, brothers Basel and Samir Ramadan, were arrested Wednesday in Maryland. Investigators found $1.5 million -- some stashed in black plastic garbage bags -- in the home and car of Basel Ramadan, authorities said.

A yearlong investigation found that the Ramadans and other suspects formed a distribution chain that began with the purchase of mass quantities of cigarettes from a Virginia wholesaler, authorities said. The cigarettes were hidden in a public storage facility in Delaware, where distributors picked up about 20,000 cartons a week for sale at markets throughout New York City and at grocery stores in upstate New York.

Schneiderman and city Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told reporters that similar schemes in the past have raised money for militant groups like Hamas and Hezbollah.

"This is not the end of our investigation," the attorney general added. "We are following the money. We will work to track it down wherever it went."

According to Kelly, one of the men previously ran a business in the 1990s that was partly bankrolled by the blind sheik; another was a "confidant" of Rashid Baz, the Lebanese immigrant who shot up a van full of Hasidic students on the Brooklyn Bridge in 1994, killing one; and a third lived in the same Brooklyn apartment as the secretary of a key Hamas fundraiser and leader in the 2000s.

Neighbors of the Ramadans in Ocean City, Md., described seeing about a dozen federal agents and New York Police Department officers show up at the brothers' homes. The investigators brought one man out in handcuffs and also pulled out a safe, put it on the front porch and used tools to break into it.

The neighbors, Charles Mack and Roger Flather, said in phone interviews that one officer turned to them and asked as an aside, "Have you ever seen a million dollars in cash?"

The Ramadans were being held without bail pending extradition to New York. The names of their attorneys were not immediately available.

The total amount of money involved in the scheme remains unclear. But financial records show the traffickers deposited at least $55 million in proceeds in small financial institutions in and around Ocean City, and authorities estimate that the loss in state tax revenue was around $80 million.

Associated Press writer Jessica Gresko in Washington contributed to this report.

  • Local NewsLocal NewsMore>>

  • Dead cats found hanging from trees in Yonkers

    Dead cats found hanging from trees in Yonkers

    Thursday, April 24 2014 11:03 PM EDT2014-04-25 03:03:00 GMT
    SPCA of Westchester photoSPCA of Westchester photo
    Police are investigating the discovery of at least two dozen dead cats found inside plastic bags hanging from trees in Yonkers Thursday, according to the SPCA of Westchester. Some of the cats were badly decomposed but others appeared more recently killed.
    Police are investigating the discovery of at least two dozen dead cats found inside plastic bags hanging from trees in Yonkers Thursday, according to the SPCA of Westchester. Some of the cats were badly decomposed but others appeared more recently killed.
  • Some residents return after NJ brush fires force evacuations

    Some residents return after NJ brush fires force evacuations

    Thursday, April 24 2014 10:42 PM EDT2014-04-25 02:42:55 GMT
    A school and many homes in Ocean County, N.J., were evacuated on Thursday afternoon because of several brush fires that were fanned by winds. Some residents returned a few hours later. The largest fires burned about 300 acres around Berkeley Township. Firefighters had about 30 percent contained late Thursday night.
    A school and many homes in Ocean County, N.J., were evacuated on Thursday afternoon because of several brush fires that were fanned by winds. Some residents returned a few hours later. The largest fires burned about 300 acres around Berkeley Township. Firefighters had about 30 percent contained late Thursday night.
  • 'Here Lies Love'

    'Here Lies Love'

    Thursday, April 24 2014 7:33 PM EDT2014-04-24 23:33:22 GMT
    "Here Lies Love" tells the rise and fall of former Philippines first lady Imelda Marcos. History meets disco literally as the story is told in a nightclub.Ruthie Ann Miles plays Marcos. Miles admits a big challenge is bringing to life a woman with views vastly different from her own and giving that to show-goers. "As an actor you believe in yourself," Miles says. "You need to be your own best friend, your own biggest supporter so that the audience can come on a journey with you."
    "Here Lies Love" tells the rise and fall of former Philippines first lady Imelda Marcos. History meets disco literally as the story is told in a nightclub.Ruthie Ann Miles plays Marcos. Miles admits a big challenge is bringing to life a woman with views vastly different from her own and giving that to show-goers. "As an actor you believe in yourself," Miles says. "You need to be your own best friend, your own biggest supporter so that the audience can come on a journey with you."
Powered by WorldNow
Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Ad Choices