(Aug. 30, 2019) Two Ocean City men who distributed more than $1.25 million worth of untaxed cigarettes were sentenced to prison on Monday in New York Supreme Court in Brooklyn.
Basel Ramadan, 47, and Samir Ramadan, 45, were previously convicted of similar cigarette smuggling scheme, but were indicted again on similar charges. Basel was sentenced to two to four years in prison, and Samir was sentenced to 1.5 to 3 years behind bars.
The Ramadan brothers entered guilty pleas on Aug. 8 to conspiracy in the fourth degree, which is a “class E” felony. Additionally, they forfeited $367,088 of illegal proceeds, or an act involved with money laundering, as a condition of the plea.
Basel, Samir and 39-year-old Fahd Muthana, of Brooklyn, were charged with a host of offenses in a 21-count indictment, that included second-degree criminal tax fraud, second-degree money laundering and fourth-degree conspiracy.
A grand jury issued the indictment on Oct. 10, 2018, according to a statement from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Officials asserted the trio trafficked more than 1,500 cartons untaxed cigarettes per week from Virginia to Kings County, New York. They are also accused of “evading nearly $430,000 in tax liability.”
Muthana, also known as Ahmed Abdullah, pleaded not guilty on Oct. 11, 2018 during his arraignment, according to online court records. His $250,000 bond was paid on Oct. 16, 2018.
Basel and Samir initially entered “not guilty” pleas during their arraignments on Oct. 18, 2018, according to online court records.
Federal, state and local agencies raided the Ramadan’s Oyster Harbor residences during October 2018 during “Operation Sidestep,” which authorities said concluded a months-long investigation.
Law enforcement officers recovered three vehicles, three handguns, one shotgun, and $312,000 in cash, according to a statement from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Untaxed cigarettes worth $341,000 were also seized from a Brooklyn, New York storage facility.
“These traffickers are charged with sidestepping the law, which put legitimate, law-abiding businesses at a disadvantage,” Then- New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood said in a statement last year. “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.”
This isn’t the first time the Ramadan brothers were in a tussle with the law.
They were arrested in connection with a multi-million dollar cigarette smuggling investigation in May 2013. New York investigators and Homeland Security personnel raided Basel’s home and police reportedly removed trash bags of about $1.4 million in cash.
Kings County Supreme Court before Judge Danny Chun is presided over the trio’s cases.
Muthana faced Judge Chun on Aug. 28, according to online court records.