OCEAN CITY — After months of legal wrangling, a trial date has now been set for two Ocean City residents indicted by a New York grand jury in May 2013 in a vast multi-million cigarette smuggling and money laundering scheme that culminated in raids on their resort area homes and businesses.
In May 2013, federal officials concluded an investigation into a massive and lucrative cigarette smuggling operation based in and around the resort area with raids on two locations, including the West Ocean City homes of local residents and business owners Basel Ramadan, 43, who has been called the “ringleader,” and Samer Ramadan, 41, who is being called the operation’s “enterprise treasurer.”
Also indicted were 14 other alleged co-conspirators, from transporters to distributors to resellers, who were rounded up at locations all over the mid-Atlantic region on the same day as the federal raids in the Ocean City area.
In the many months since the indictments and subsequent raids, Basel Ramadan, Samer Ramadan and the alleged co-conspirators have appeared in New York court several times for various bail reviews and other pretrial motions hearings, the latest coming on Wednesday. Following the proceedings on Wednesday, Basel Ramadan was remanded back to custody and is being held without bail.
In addition Samer Ramadan was also in court on Wednesday and was ordered to be held on the bail conditions as were applied from the beginning with a $15 million bond.
Samer Ramadan was expected to be back in court on Friday, while Basel Ramadan’s next appearance is scheduled for Aug. 12. A trial date for the Ramadans and their alleged co-conspirators has now been set in for Oct. 7.
At Basel Ramadan’s next appearance in August, another bond review is expected to be heard along with rulings on multiple pretrial motions, including a motion to dismiss charges related to an alleged murder-for-hire plot. In October, the New York Attorney General’s Office indicted Basel Ramadan and co-conspirator Yousseff Odeh for allegedly attempting to arrange for the killing of witnesses in the cigarette smuggling and money laundering case from behind bars.
With the cooperation of confidential sources, law enforcement personnel learned last August Basel Ramadan and Odeh wanted to kill two individuals living in New York who they believed were cooperating with officials in the investigation and prosecution. Additional evidence of the alleged murder plots, hatched from inside jail, was gathered by law enforcement officials who monitor calls made by inmates. In this case, the New York Attorney General’s office has alleged Ramadan placed a call from jail to an undercover officer whom he believed as a contract killer arranging for the murder of witnesses in the case.
However, from the beginning, Ramadan’s attorney has asserted the language used during the calls was vague at best and did not include specifics about killing or even harming any potential witnesses in the cigarette smuggling case. Ramadan’s attorney has said he believes for that reason the murder-for-hire charges against his client will not stand up in court and has filed for a motion to dismiss those charges. A ruling on that motion and other pretrial motions is expected when Basel Ramadan next appears in court in August.
According to the New York Attorney General’s Office, the Ramadans and their co-conspirators allegedly funneled thousands of cartons of untaxed smokes and millions of dollars in ill-gotten revenue through Ocean City and Worcester County from a wholesaler in Virginia to a distribution warehouse in Delaware. From there, the illegal, untaxed cigarettes were distributed to retail outlets all over New York City and upstate New York with significant mark-ups.