NEW FOR THURSDAY: UPDATE: Local Raids Linked To Cigarette Smuggling Ring That Funded Terrorist Groups

BERLIN — At least two properties owned by two local businessmen were raided Wednesday by Homeland Security officials and New York authorities and the brothers have been linked to an organized effort to fund terrorist groups.

The Ramadan family owns several local businesses in the area, including convenience stores in Berlin and Ocean City, the Village Market in Ocean City and has at least partial stakes in several local franchises, according to business records.

In Ocean City Wednesday morning, authorities stormed a condominium above the Subway on Sunset Drive and Coastal Highway and were seen confiscating items and seemed to be working a crime scene. In West Ocean City, in the Oyster Harbor community, a similar scene played out at the home of Basel and Samir Ramadan. Personal property was seized and vehicles were stripped and seized during searches.

According to the New York Daily News, “Since 2004, law enforcement has warned that groups smuggling cigarettes from Southern states like North Carolina and Virginia, where they are cheaper, to sell them tax-free up north have funneled millions of dollars in profits to terrorist groups.

“Prosecutors will allege the ring was run by brothers Basel and Samir Ramadan of Ocean City, Md., according to sources familiar with the investigation.

“In the last year, the group allegedly bought $55 million worth of virtually every brand of cigarettes in Virginia, trucking 20,000 cartons a week north and selling them — tax-free — in New York City and upstate.”

Both Basel, 41, and Samir Ramadan, 39, were being held yesterday in Worcester County on the charge of fugitive from justice — New York.

Witnesses in the Oyster Harbor community reported to The Dispatch 15 police vehicles from Maryland, New York and New Jersey surrounded the home at 12648 Whisper Trace. and two suspects were reportedly handcuffed and seen face down on the lawn. Additionally, at one point, a suburban rolled into the community and six armed agents ran into the house. Four flatbed trucks were also spotted on site and towed all of the vehicles at the home.

Questions to the federal Homeland Security office have not been answered as of this time.

The Daily News article continues, “The group sold the cigarettes to a vast network of distributors in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and upstate, as well as several other states, sources allege.

Members of the ring managed to dodge $80 million in taxes and pocket at least $10 million in profit, prosecutors will charge.

The group has been under surveillance by the state Organized Crime Task Force and NYPD for months, and search warrants were executed up and down the East Coast.

Investigators recovered three guns and more than $1 million — some of which was stuffed into black plastic garbage bags — in a Maryland home linked to the ring.”

The Dispatch will continue to follow this story.

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About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.