New York tobacco pirate heading for the big house

posted at 5:31 pm on July 5, 2014 by Jazz Shaw

Back in March, we told you about the case of Bassam Kiriaki, a modern day tobacco pirate from Maryland who was caught with a staggering $1.2M in loot following a brief but highly successful criminal career bringing cigarettes from low tax states into high tax areas. However, not to be outdone by some two bit punk from the Old Line State, it took a New Yorker to really take things to the next level. Last week in a Big Apple court, Samer Ramadan plead guilty to helping out his brother Basel with a little project they had going.

The No. 2 man in a multimillion-dollar cigarette smuggling operation based out of West Ocean City has pleaded guilty to corruption charges and now faces prison time in New York state.

Samer Ramadan, 40, pleaded guilty June 27 to the top charge against him of enterprise corruption, according to the New York Attorney General’s Office. In a statement in open court, he admitted his role in the operation run by his brother, prosecutors said, including stating that his brother ran the enterprise.

In a 303-page indictment of the cigarette smuggling and money laundering operation, dubbed Operation Tobacco Road, prosecutors identify Samir Ramadan as the treasurer. The indictment says he focused on control and disbursement of the cash generated by the enterprise.

Samer is looking at two to six years behind bars. The details you’ll read in the indictment really provide a fascinating look into the operation these guys set up to take advantage of the patchwork sin tax laws across the northeast corridor. We’re not talking about a couple of thugs highjacking trucks and selling cartons in an empty parking lot like a scene out of Goodfellas. Ramadan’s people were bringing in truckloads to local distributors who were then sending them out to a variety of outlets on a regular schedule. Of course, it was all cash under the table and not in small quantities.

Police found that the Ramadans had purchased tens of millions of dollars worth of cigarettes. More than $55 million in cash, transported in garbage bags, had been taken into Ocean City and laundered through various small businesses, the indictment states. The driver at times would drive with as much as $100,000, authorities allege.

Authorities said the Ramadans generated more than $10 million in profits from their illegal activities. The criminal charges alleged that the operation stiffed New York state out of $80 million in cigarette tax revenue.

I’d call this development amazing if it hadn’t been predicted well in advance by numerous sources. When you jack up the price of something that high in an effort to bail out your state economy and there are far cheaper sources so close at hand, there’s always going to be somebody ready to take a chance and cash in on situation. One of their associates was overheard on a wiretap as saying that smuggling smokes was “better than selling drugs.”

That’s no surprise either, since the end product is much harder for the police to pick up on. They’ll notice people passing baggies of powder or sticking a needle in their arm, but nobody pays attention to people smoking Marlboros or picking up a pack at the Stop and Shop. And I doubt anyone is going to think that they’ve toppled the criminal empire just by nabbing these folks. The Ramadans managed to soak up $80M that was supposedly going to go to the State of New York. I wonder how many more are still out there operating?


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Two to six. He’ll be out in 18 months. Sounds like he likely pocketed millions off this scheme.

Better than selling dope…

JohnGalt23 on July 5, 2014 at 5:40 PM

As a smoker, I want cheaper cigarettes and less taxes. 0bamacare is more criminal than this operation…

OmahaConservative on July 5, 2014 at 5:44 PM

These kinds of black market profits will be mild compared to those that healthcare provider mobs will be able to earn once DeathCare eventually criminalizes all provider and patient transactions occurring outside the tyrannical federal government system …

ShainS on July 5, 2014 at 5:46 PM

I’d wager he’s one of thousands doing this.
Couldn’t happen to a nicer state, too!
Bite Me, NY.

Tard on July 5, 2014 at 5:55 PM

These states must be bigoted against Muslims. NY and the Feds turn a blind eye to the tobacco and other goods the native Americans smuggle from Canada in upstate NY.

obladioblada on July 5, 2014 at 5:58 PM

These kinds of black market profits will be mild compared to those that healthcare provider mobs will be able to earn once DeathCare eventually criminalizes all provider and patient transactions occurring outside the tyrannical federal government system …

ShainS on July 5, 2014 at 5:46 PM

That’s no joke. Hillary tried to do exactly that in Hillarycare.

Doc Holliday on July 5, 2014 at 6:16 PM

When the economy becomes too restrictive it goes underground. The only economy communist countries have is the black market.

crankyoldlady on July 5, 2014 at 6:20 PM

Happy Ramadan

Schadenfreude on July 5, 2014 at 6:22 PM

The criminal charges alleged that the operation stiffed New York state out of $80 million in cigarette tax revenue.

Remember, all money belongs to the gov’t. It’s by their grace that we’re allowed to touch it.

UnstChem on July 5, 2014 at 6:25 PM

Happy Ramadan

Schadenfreude on July 5, 2014 at 6:22 PM

Is it Ramadan? That means there will be an attack somewhere.

crankyoldlady on July 5, 2014 at 6:27 PM

No one has the right to compete for tax money against the Government. No, not even the Muslims.

Rix on July 5, 2014 at 6:35 PM

I’m surprised that anyone still buys cigarettes locally in the US, except for the wealthy.

nottakingsides on July 5, 2014 at 6:36 PM

Its the big time for selling pirated cigs…spying on innocent US citizens, using the power of the IRS on innocent US citizens, selling illegal guns to criminals to kill US citizens… Well thats all ok but make sure to stop the illegal cig market.

jaywemm on July 5, 2014 at 6:38 PM

If I were on a jury, I would never vote to convict anyone brought up on any tax violation. Jury nullification seems like it would be a great way to starve the beast.

Racistanyway on July 5, 2014 at 6:43 PM

I’m been an ex-smoker for a while, but I personally consider cigarette smugglers true American Heroes. The reason I quit in the first place was to deny the state and federal government tax money.

Wallythedog on July 5, 2014 at 6:52 PM

New York hates free enterprise and entrepreneurs.

RoadRunner on July 5, 2014 at 6:56 PM

You know, that isn’t a picture of cartons of cigarettes for the post. Those are cartons of empty tubes and filters. My Premiers are in there. Those are for MYO cigarettes, which are perfectly legal. I make my cigarettes (with great tobacco) for about 85 cents/pack. Totally legit.

As to New York, all New York pols should be arrested and sentenced to 40 years of hard labor for the robbery and abuse they tried to visit on people through those totally insane cigarette taxes. There is no excuse for that short of stuff. They should do painful, hard labor and then die and go straight to hell.

ThePrimordialOrderedPair on July 5, 2014 at 7:03 PM

These kinds of black market profits will be mild compared to those that healthcare provider mobs will be able to earn once DeathCare eventually criminalizes all provider and patient transactions occurring outside the tyrannical federal government system …

ShainS on July 5, 2014 at 5:46 PM

That’s no joke. Hillary tried to do exactly that in Hillarycare.

Doc Holliday on July 5, 2014 at 6:16 PM

Isn’t it already so in the People’s Republik of Canada?

slickwillie2001 on July 5, 2014 at 7:58 PM

I haven’t smoked for 17 years but I’m with the tobacco pirates. If they put me on jury duty in a case like this (I’ve been on jury duty 7 times in NY) my verdict will be NOT GUILTY. I hate these NY tax ripoff artists. NY is the worst tax state in the union with a local and state sales tax to boot of nearly 9%. You are forced to sign a NY State tax return in which you are, in effect, swearing under oath that you did not cheat NY during the course of the tax year. This signature alone, every year makes millions of New Yorkers guilty of perjury.

Then there’s the USE tax. If you buy a tube of toothpaste in Maine (5% sales tax) and intend to use it when you return to NY, you must pay the DIFFERENCE (c 9%-5%) to NY state. If you don’t and you sign a NY State tax return you are BOTH a tax cheat and a perjurer. (PS when an illegal alien sneaks into NY, often with robbery or welfare on his mind, the Empire State stops just short of honoring him with an elephant-led parade.)

If I had to choose between a NY politician and the Mafia, I would choose the Mafia 100% of the time..)

MaiDee on July 5, 2014 at 8:09 PM

How many more?
Lots!

But, notice the names….isn’t this prosecution Racist?

Another Drew on July 5, 2014 at 8:32 PM

1 down, 368,724 to go!

Random Numbers (Brian Epps) on July 5, 2014 at 8:32 PM

As if this sort of scheme weren’t stupid enough, Philadelphia has just voted this in on a COUNTY level.

Cigarettes sold in the Philadelphia county will cost $2 more per pack than neighboring counties. o.0

At least on a state level, there are different tax stamps on the bottom, so you know what state they were bought in. waqqqqqqqq56tt

Supposedly the extra revenue will go towards helping the school district make it’s annual budget. But we all know it will end up paying for more vacation homes and boats for the bureaucrats.

Oxymoron on July 5, 2014 at 9:02 PM

To bad his hard drive didn’t crash!

Hey! That excuse worked for another CRIMINAL enterprise!

GarandFan on July 5, 2014 at 9:34 PM

It’s arbitrage, that’s all. The fact it’s illegal is merely evidence that the government protects its own revenue stream.

ugottabekiddingme on July 6, 2014 at 12:19 AM

Back in March, we told you about the case of Bassam Kiriaki, a modern day tobacco pirate …………….. Samer Ramadan plead guilty to helping out his brother Basel

…must be Jews…huh?

JugEarsButtHurt on July 6, 2014 at 12:28 AM

1 down, 368,724 to go!

Random Numbers (Brian Epps) on July 5, 2014 at 8:32 PM

heh

cptacek on July 6, 2014 at 1:46 AM

The Ramadans managed to soak up $80M that was supposedly going to go to the State of New York. I wonder how many more are still out there operating?

And I wonder how much of the illicit profits are going to fund jihad and terrorist operations. As usual. Hot Air misses the wider implications.

Joseph K on July 6, 2014 at 4:37 AM

Of course it was for jihad. First thing I thought of. I hope it’s the first thing the feds thought of. Follow the money.

winoceros on July 6, 2014 at 5:16 AM

This is what comes of giving preferential immigrant status to those from countries where there is no respect for the law. Of course, that presumes they are here legally.

But then, our country just elected a president with no respect for the law…TWICE!

jeanneb on July 6, 2014 at 7:19 AM

I just can’t see why the guy is a criminal.

Doesn’t bother me in the least.

People want the cheaper smokes cause of obvious demand created by the …er…State.

I don’t like the State.

Go tobacco smugglers, go!

Sherman1864 on July 6, 2014 at 11:20 AM

I suspect at least some of the profits from this scheme ended up in the Middle East and into the hands of terrorists.

zoyclem on July 6, 2014 at 11:26 AM

New York tobacco pirate heading for the big house

Obviously he didn’t take care of members of the PTB. He doubly screwed up because that same PTB hate it when they lose even a nickel of potential tax revenue. But, at least they can publicly hang him out to dry and that makes for good press…so not a total loss.

Dr. ZhivBlago on July 6, 2014 at 12:31 PM

Finally: a couple of Muslims that the government is actually willing to identify as criminals.

After all: they stole money from Holy Mother Government. It’s not like they were doing nickel-dime crimes, like flying aircraft into buildings, or plotting with the Taliban to kill American soldiers: y’know, low level stuff that doesn’t actually exist, now that Dear Leader successfully concluded the War on Terror.

I’m so proud as an American serf taxpayer that New York State can now go back to ‘investing’ our money in important things, like suppressing gun ownership and placing surveillance cameras at every street corner in NYC.
To help catch terrorists.
That no longer exist.
Even though we get frisked and X rayed in airports, looking for them.

Allah’s Praise upon Holy Mother Government!

orangemtl on July 6, 2014 at 1:04 PM

Fat Tony: Bart, if your family were starving, wouldn’t you steal bread to feed them?
Bart: Sure.
Fat Tony: Well, what if they don’t like bread? What if they like cigarettes?

Surellin on July 7, 2014 at 8:05 AM

Anything that harms the government is good and just. Do your share to support the black market.

earlgrey on July 7, 2014 at 11:15 AM