OCEAN CITY — One of two Ocean City residents indicted by a New York grand jury in May 2013 in a vast multi-million cigarette smuggling and money laundering enterprise was sentenced this week to a maximum of six years in prison.
Samer Ramadan, 41, of Ocean City, last week pleaded guilty to enterprise corruption, the top charge against him for his role in the massive cigarette smuggling scheme. Back in Kings County, N.Y. Supreme Court on Monday, Ramadan was sentenced to a maximum of six years in prison and a minimum of two years. Another co-conspirator, Youssef Odeh, last week pleaded guilty to enterprise corruption and second-degree conspiracy for his role in an alleged murder-for-hire plot targeting witnesses in the case and was also sentenced this week to a maximum of six years and a minimum of two.
In May 2013, federal officials concluded an investigation into a multi-million dollar 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, 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.
At sentencing on Monday, Samer Ramadan did not make any formal statement to the court although he did fully admit to the charges against him and provided some additional information about the scheme. Samer Ramadan told the court Basel Ramadan, also known as Abu Salah, was the “boss” and “in charge” of the cigarette business, and Samer Ramadan handled the money that came in from the operation, including counting the proceeds and making deposits in various local and regional banks.
Ramadan told the court he and his brother ran the cigarette trafficking scheme from their offices on 27th Street in Ocean City and utilized storage facilities in Selbyville and Dagsboro to distribute the untaxed cigarettes and take in the cash.
For his part, Basel Ramadan appeared in court last Wednesday for a motions hearing and bail review and was sent back to jail without bond. His next appearance is set for August with a preliminary trial date set for October. In addition to the charges against him related to the cigarette smuggling and money laundering operation, Basel Ramadan has also been charged with conspiracy to commit murder, along with co-conspirator Odeh, for allegedly attempting to arrange for the killing of witnesses in the case via telephone from jail.
Another of the alleged co-conspirators, Ahmad Abdelaziz, pleaded guilty last Wednesday to enterprise corruption and faces one to three years in prison when he is sentenced on Aug. 12. Earlier this year, another co-conspirator, Muaffaq Askar pleaded guilty to attempting to evade cigarette tax and was sentenced to a conditional discharge.
Following the indictments against the Ramadans and their alleged co-conspirators in May 2013, federal officials raided their West Ocean City homes along with their offices above the Subway restaurant on 27th Street. At the homes in the Oyster Harbor community, $1.4 million in large black bags was recovered, along with 20,000 cartons of untaxed cigarettes.
The Ramadans allegedly conducted the vast cigarette smuggling operation out of their Ocean City properties, but 14 other co-conspirators, from transporters to distributors to resellers, were also rounded up at locations all over the mid-Atlantic region.