It’s been a while since the Ramadans have been in the news, but this week some new major news broke.
Basel and Samir Ramadan, along with a dozen or so cohorts, were arrested earlier this year for their leading roles in a vast cigarette smuggling operation involving millions of dollars of untaxed smokes. While that operation was significant, what was most compelling was the New York authorities’ belief that they were involved in terrorist funding activities. It has been known for some time that these sorts of cigarette smuggling operations funnel proceeds to terrorist groups abroad. However, proving the Ramadans were working with and for terrorists would be difficult.
The feeling here all along was if authorities could not link the Ramadans and their team of criminals to terrorist activity both could be out of jail within a few years on the cigarette smuggling charges.
For Basel Ramadan, that all changed yesterday with an indictment for allegedly conspiring from behind bars to kill witnesses he believed were cooperating with authorities on the case against him. Another suspect, Yousseff Odeh, has also been charged with the same crime.
“These defendants sought to kill individuals they believed to be witnesses to their crimes. This behavior is intolerable, and we are going to prosecute them to the full extent of the law,” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said. “These two individuals cheated New York taxpayers out of millions of dollars in tax revenue and then tried to cover up their dangerous and lucrative smuggling operations, which hurt New York businesses, by committing the ultimate crime.”
Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said, “This indictment shows the scope of intent of these two individuals was not limited to generating profits through illegal cigarettes; it now includes a murder plot.”
On these new charges alone, Ramadan is now facing up to 25 years.
Many in the local tourism industry have worried for years about the lack of a long-term, organized direction the town’s tourism industry seems to have. That’s why it’s significant that the town’s Tourism Commission is asking the city to put out a Request For Proposals for outside strategic planning companies to study local tourism.
Maryland Tourism Development Board Chair Greg Shockley opined this week what many have been thinking. The resort is simply living year to year and relying on annual marketing campaigns to attract tourists.
“Personally, I have been railing this for years. We are basically crisis managing every year without our own map to go forward, and putting it off another year puts us into another year of crisis management, so I believe time is of the essence,” he said.
What’s best about this strategic planning effort will be for once a general sense of Ocean City tourism will be obtained. This will be a trying process for the work group that will be involved in this process, but it should be worthwhile.
Ocean City is home to a diverse group of ideologies and most of the time business owners, elected officials and appointed tourism executives do not appear to be on the same page. For instance, while Mayor Rick Meehan may be boasting about the OC Air Show on television and the crowds it brings to Ocean City, there are business owners in the resort who simultaneously despise the day-tripper event because of all the handouts it requires as well as the lack of heads it puts in beds.
Additionally, as was mentioned this week, June is a month that divides the town. For some businesses, June is a huge month for sales, while for others it’s a let down from the better month of May. Also mentioned this week was the fact that some think Ocean City’s tourism is based solely on special events and that spending marketing dollars outside the area is extremely ineffective and a waste of resources, particularly if it’s going to involve a fake lifeguard spreading a silly message.
Although tourism people in Ocean City will never agree on everything, this is a good step to build some sort of general consensus and to create a document that will serve as a future roadmap and guiding principle.