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Friday, March 27, 2009

Cigarette Smugglers in St. Louis, New York City, Charlotte and Tampa Funnel Money to Terror Groups like Hezbollah.



Cigarette smuggling is generating millions of dollars every year that can be reaching terrorist groups, including Hezbollah, Hamas and Al Qaeda, according to law enforcement sources. In a single case, $100,000 was sent to Hezbollah. The first large-scale cigarette trafficking case tied to terrorism was prosecuted in North Carolina in 2002.

A federal jury in Charlotte convicted Mohamad Hammoud, 28, of violating a ban on providing material support to a terrorist group by funneling profits from a multimillion-dollar cigarette-smuggling operation to Hezbollah. The jury also found Hammoud, whom prosecutors described as the leader of a terrorist cell, and his brother guilty of cigarette smuggling, racketeering and money laundering. The two men, natives of Lebanon, were accused of smuggling at least $7.9 million worth of cigarettes out of North Carolina and selling them in Michigan. Hammoud was sentenced to 155 years in prison.
 
According to a Federal 2008 report , citing federal and New York state law enforcement sources, nearly 70 percent of all convenience retail outlets in New York City are now Arab-owned, primarily families of Lebanese, Yemeni, Jordanian and Palestinian descent.  Cigarette trafficking is difficult to stop, partly because tobacco is a legal commodity.

Smuggling cigarettes becomes a federal crime only when more than 60,000 cigarettes, or 300 cartons, are purchased to avoid payment of state tax, said Jerry Bowerman, chief of the ATF alcohol and tobacco enforcement branch. New York law enforcement authorities announced the arrest of Queens resident Rafea al-Nablisi for smuggling 12,000 cartons of cigarettes a week. It was not the first such arrest, and thanks to New York's latest cigarette tax hike, it will not be the last.

UPDATE.....Thursday, April 02, 2009, ATF Arrests $3 Million Dollar Chinese Cigarette Smugglers In Queens NY, Guang Ming Wang and his son, Feishan Wang  As the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms said in September 2002 of New York's cigarette smuggling, "Traditional organized crime is involved, terrorist groups are involved, and street gangs are involved." Rivalry among these groups has resulted in numerous shootings and homicides.
The connection to terrorism is no exaggeration. When New York police cracked another smuggling ring in 2005, they uncovered a multimillion dollar flow of funds from New York City to unknown individuals in the Middle East. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly gave voice to the obvious conclusion: Terrorists probably got the money.
According to the St Pete Times In February 2004, the Tampa Bay RDSTF received information from the Jacksonville RDSTF that a Tampa resident, Adil Abdel Hader, 58, was allegedly involved in an organized criminal enterprise that purchased stolen cigarettes derived from "smash and grab" burglaries throughout Central Florida.

According to Lance Newman, Florida Department of Law Enforcement special agent in charge and, Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee, RDSTF co-chairs, intelligence collected by law enforcement agencies throughout the United States indicated that the proceeds from the sale of stolen property, particularly SMUGGLED CIGARETTES and BABY FORMULA in convenience stores, have allegedly been forwarded to foreign groups associated with funding terrorist organizations (like Hezbollah and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad which has numerous links in Tampa).

TAMPA SMUGGLED CIGARETTE SCHEME UP IN SMOKE, ARRESTED ARE KHALDOUN "TONY" KHAWAJA AND 5 OTHERS, A SEARCH WARRANT WAS SERVED AT THE MAIN STREET GROCERY..TAMPA, FL--A scheme to facilitate the theft and resale of smuggled cigarettes has been uncovered as the result of an ongoing criminal investigation run by the Tampa Bay Regional Domestic Security Task Force (RDSTF).

Just a few weeks before that 2005 bust, Buffalo-area businessman Aref Ahmed had been sentenced to three years and a month for cigarette smuggling. The feds said he'd used the racket to fund "scholarships" at terrorist training camps in Afghanistan during the spring of 2001. Going back to 1993, counterfeit cigarette stamps were found in the apartment of the first World Trade Center bombers.

Through a series of undercover operations, agents identified suspects, including Hader, who purchased stolen cigarettes at prices well below wholesale value and resold them through convenience stores whom Hader either controlled or with whom he was associated. Smuggled Cigarettes totaling approximately $45,000 in value were purchased by suspects who were told they had been stolen.

IN EARLY 2008 TWO MEMBERS OF THIS "CREW' WERE ARRESTED AGAIN ON THE SAME CHARGES WITH STOLEN/SMUGGLED CIGARETTES, THEY HAD BEEN ON FLORIDA STATE FELONY PROBATION, THEY WERE CHARGED AGAIN AND CONVICTED AGAIN, NOW THEY ARE ON "DOUBLE SECRET PROBATION" WITH NO JAIL TIME, ONLY IN FLORIDA.

A list of suspects arrested and charges follows (these men pled out and were put on Florida State felony probation):
Abil Abdel Hader DOB 08/19/47 Commit Sexual Battery Dealing in Stolen Property.Khaldoun Khalil "Tony" Khawaja DOB 03/28/64 Stolen Property Racketeering.
Salim Yousef Suleiman DOB 01/14/62 Dealing in Stolen Property Racketeering.
Said Ibrahim DOB 11/24/55 Dealing in Stolen Property Racketeering.
Tariq Hammad DOB 01/01/87 Dealing in Stolen Property Racketeering.
Victor Javier Reyes DOB 11/02/77 Dealing in Stolen Property Racketeering.

SAC Newman stated that "while we are not accusing anyone of terrorist activity, we want to send a clear message that the RDSTF is proactively looking at people and businesses that engage in activities that have historically supported groups sympathetic to terrorist organizations."




Bill Warner
private investigator