OCEAN CITY — Two local residents indicted by a New York grand jury in May for allegedly being the ringleader and enterprise treasurer of a vast cigarette smuggling and money laundering operation remain behind bars this week after preliminary hearings in King’s County New York Supreme Court on Monday.
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 Ocean City area including the West Ocean City homes of local residents and business owners Basel Ramadan, 42, who has been called the operation’s “ringleader,” and Samer Ramadan, 40, who is being called the “enterprise treasurer” of the operation. Also indicted were 14 other alleged co-conspirators, from transporters to distributors to resellers, who were also rounded up at locations all over the mid-Atlantic region on the same day in May.
At an initial bail hearing on June 4, Samer Ramadan was ordered to be held on a $15 million bond and was remanded to the custody of the New York Justice Department. Basel Ramadan also appeared at the same hearing on June 4, but the hearing was adjourned before his bail was set and he remained in custody without bond.
On Monday, Basel and Samer Ramadan and each of the alleged co-conspirators appeared in King’s County New York Supreme Court for a hearing characterized by the New York Attorney General’s Office as a “control date.” Essentially, the hearing is another step in the legal process during which bond review appeals can be heard, pre-trial motions can be filed and other business of the court related to the prosecution can be handled.
At Monday’s hearing, Samer Ramadan’s bond was reviewed and he was ordered to be held under the same original conditions, meaning his bail remains set at $15 million. Basel Ramadan also appeared, but the hearing was again adjourned with a bond review and he remains in custody without bond. Basel Ramadan’s next scheduled court appearance is July 9, while Samer Ramadan is not scheduled to appear in court again until Sept. 20.
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 whence the illegal, untaxed cigarettes were distributed to retail outlets all over New York City and upstate.