Reporting Rochelle Ritchie
BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Just days after a major raid on a cigarette smuggling ring along the East Coast, WJZ has learned two brothers arrested are from Ocean City.
The brothers may have funneled the money to terror groups.
Rochelle Ritchie has the latest on the operation and charges against the brothers.
The brothers are facing a slew of charges, including enterprise corruption. They were arrested in Ocean City, living a simple and unsuspecting lifestyle.
It’s one of the most profitable cigarette smuggling rings New York police say they’ve seen in a long time. An investigation started because of the continued hunt for terrorists.
“We discovered individuals on our radar were engaged in a massive raid on the New York Treasury in the form of cigarette tax avoidance,” said Eric Schneiderman, New York Attorney General.
The alleged masterminds of it all, Palestinian immigrants Samir Ramadan and his brother Basel.
They are just two of the 16 arrested with possible connections to the “Blind Sheik,” now serving a life sentence for his role in a 1993 plot to carry out attacks in New York City.
“We know some members of this group have ties to some very dangerous people, we know they were arrested with weapons,” Schneiderman said.
Authorities in New York say the brothers and 14 other suspects formed a lucrative illegal operation buying large amounts of untaxed cigarettes from a Virginia wholesaler and hide them in a storage unit in Delaware.
Authorities say an accomplice in New York would then drive thousands of dollars to Delaware and give the Ramadan brothers cash in exchange for the cigarettes.
“Cigarette smuggling can produce big profits with relatively low risk,” said Maryland State Comptroller Peter Franchot.
Investigators say the Ramadans made $55 million in illegal cigarette sales, costing the state of New York $80 million in lost profit.
“We are going to work around the clock to make sure no business in Maryland is associated with these two individuals,” said Franchot.
But WJZ has learned Samir Ramadan is said to own several businesses in Ocean City, including three pizza shops, a gas station and a liquor store.
The millions of dollars is now in the custody of New York police, but the investigation is ongoing.
“We are following the money and will work to track it down, wherever it went,” said Schneiderman.
The brothers are in jail in Maryland and are waiting extradition back to New York.
Two million dollars in cash was found at the brothers’ home. It is believed the brothers deposited the rest of their illegal earnings at small financial institutions in Ocean City.