The men are accused of smuggling more than a million cartons of untaxed cigarettes from Virginia to be sold in grocery stores across New York, with $55 million in sales uncovered so far.
YAHOO (h/t winterspirit78) “We don’t know where all of that money went, but what we do know is deeply troubling,” Schneiderman said. “We know that some members of this group have ties to very dangerous people, we know they were arrested with weapons, we know that they made tens of millions of dollars but so far we have found only a fraction of that.”
Investigators are still tracking where much of the money ended up, but they noted similar rings in the past have funneled money to Hamas, the Islamist government in Gaza, and Hezbollah, the militant Shi’ite group based in Lebanon, both of which are considered to be terrorist organizations by the United States.
The traffickers had alleged links to known terrorists, including Omar Abdel-Rahman, the blind cleric serving a life sentence for a conspiracy to blow up New York City landmarks. That combination has raised concerns about where the money went.
“We know 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 MUSLIM immigrants.
In a 224-count indictment, the men are charged with enterprise corruption, money laundering and other tax crimes, for which each defendant faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted. In addition to costing New York State and New York City an estimated $80 million in lost sales tax revenue, the ring generated at least $10 million in profit, Schneiderman and Kelly said.
Authorities said the ring was headed by two brothers, Basel Ramadan, 42, and Samir Ramadan, 40, both of Ocean City, Maryland, who ran a couple of local Subway restaurant franchises. Investigators said they found $1.4 million stashed in Basel Ramadan’s home, some of it stuffed in black plastic trash bags, and three handguns following his arrest on Thursday.