OCEAN CITY — One of two Ocean City residents indicted by a New York grand jury in May for allegedly being the ringleader of a vast multi-million dollar cigarette smuggling and money laundering operation was indicted again Thursday in New York after a foiled murder-for-hire plot was uncovered.
In mid-May, federal officials concluded an investigation into a 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 and business owners Basel Ramadan, 42, who has been called the “ringleader” of the operation, and Samer Ramadan, 40, 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 in May.
On Thursday, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and NYPD Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly announced the indictment of Basel Ramadan and Yousseff Odeh, one of his alleged distributors and a trusted lieutenant, on new charges they conspired from behind bars to murder witnesses they believed were cooperating with law enforcement in the massive cigarette smuggling case against them.
The new indictment, which was unsealed early Thursday morning in Brooklyn Supreme Court on a day Basel Ramadan was already scheduled to appear for a hearing, charges Ramadan and Odeh with conspiracy in the second-degree and criminal solicitation in the second-degree.
Each now faces up to 25 years in prison on the new charges for conspiring to kill two witnesses, in addition to the time they face for their roles in the cigarette smuggling operation.
With the cooperation of confidential sources, law enforcement personnel learned early in August Basel Ramadan and Odeh wanted to kill two individuals living in New York who they believed were cooperating with officials. Additional evidence of the murder plots, hatched from inside Rikers Island jail, was gathered by law enforcement officials who monitor calls made by inmates. In this case, the calls were placed by Basel Ramadan.
One of the calls was to an undercover police officer whom Ramadan believed was a contract killer.
For more details, see Friday’s print version and online editions of The Dispatch later today.