OCEAN CITY — One of two local residents, indicted by a New York grand jury in May for allegedly being the “enterprise treasurer” for a vast money laundering operation with possible links to terrorism, was ordered held on a $15 million bond this week, while his alleged “ringleader” brother remains in custody without a bail review.
In mid-May, federal officials concluded an investigation into a vast, multi-million dollar cigarette smuggling operation with raids on two locations in and around the resort area including the West Ocean City homes of local residents Basel Ramadan, 42, who is being called the “ringleader and “boss” of the operation, and Samer Ramadan, 40, who is being called the “enterprise treasurer.” Federal officials also raided the Ramadan’s offices over the Subway restaurant they owned at Sunset Drive near 26th Street.
At the Ramadans’ West Ocean City homes in the Oyster Harbor community, $1.4 million in large black bags was recovered, along with 20,000 cartons of untaxed cigarettes. According to the New York Attorney General’s Office, the Ramadans and their 14 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 whence the illegal, untaxed cigarettes were distributed to retail outlets all over New York City and upstate.
At arraignment hearings last week, Basel and Samer Ramadan each pleaded not guilty and were remanded to custody without bond. During proceedings this week, Samer Ramadan was ordered to be held on a $15 million bond. Basel Ramadan also appeared for a bail review, but the hearing was adjourned before his bail was set and he was remanded to custody without a bond. The next court appearance for Basel and Samer Ramadan, along with all of the other suspects, is scheduled for June 24, according to court records.
Meanwhile, Mohamad S. “Mike” Ramadan, the youngest brother of Basel and Samer Ramadan, who owns and operates several businesses in the resort including the Gold Coast Beer and Wine store and six Dairy Queens, has experienced a backlash in the community because of the alleged activities of his brothers and is attempting to distance himself from their alleged actions. Ramadan said this week he has seen sales decline and harassment at the businesses he owns and operates independently of his brothers.
“It can’t be explained how damaging this has been,” he said. “It’s been very difficult. It’s really hard, and honestly, really dangerous. My stores and my employees are being harassed and I just want to clear it up and move forward.”
Mike Ramadan’s attorney Mark Cropper said this week he has spoken with the New York Attorney General’s Office to ensure his client is not implicated in any way and that his businesses are not targeted in any of the investigations. Cropper said he spoke last Friday with Peri Kadanoff, Deputy Attorney General on the Organized Crime Task Force of the New York State Attorney General’s Office.
“I spoke with her and she confirmed that Mike Ramadan, the youngest brother of Basel and Samir, has never been, is not now or is expected in the future to be suspected of being involved or in any way implicated in the crimes for which Basel and Samir have been charged and arrested as related to the alleged cigarette smuggling ring,” he said.
Cropper said his conversation with Kadanoff should clear up any veiled perception of Mike Ramadan’s involvement in the case.
“As such, the businesses owned and operated by Mohamad S. “Mike” Ramadan, including but not limited to the six Dairy Queens and 114 Beer and Wine Inc., trading as Gold Coast Beer and Wine, never should have been and should never again be identified or referenced in any newspaper article or other media reports associated with or pertaining to the alleged wrongdoing of Samir and Basel Ramadan,” he said.
Cropper said Mike Ramadan’s businesses are owned and operated independently of those owned by his brothers. Cropper refused a request to view tax records or other documentation proving the point. He also said no rational nexus has been established between the alleged cigarette smuggling ring and any of the businesses owned by the Ramadans.
While Mike Ramadan has established his own businesses, he did have some assistance from his older brothers along the way, according to Cropper.
“That’s not to say Mike Ramadan didn’t have the help of Basel and/or Samir in finding a location or learning how to run a business,” he said. “Basel, for example, has more experience in retail. With regard to 114 Beer and Wine Inc., Mike is the sole shareholder and officer of that corporation. With regards to the six Dairy Queens, they are owned by six different entities that Mike owned solely and exclusively. Neither Basel or Samir assisted in the operation of those businesses.”