In a federal sting operation that spanned the East Coast, authorities said they stopped a massive cigarette smuggling ring that might have used profits to fund terrorist groups.
Homeland Security agents on Wednesday stormed at least two Ocean City, Md., properties owned by Samir and Basel Ramadan, taking items from their homes and seizing their vehicles.
Prosecutors said the men are leaders of a group that trafficked $55 million in smuggled cigarettes from coastal Virginia to upstate New York and New York City last year, moving 20,000 cartons at a time. The cigarettes were then sold tax-free to a large network of distributors.
Officials said the group dodged $80 million in taxes and made more than $10 million in profits.
In New York, the Daily News reported the NYPD busted 16 people connected in the smuggling ring. Some are believed to have strong ties to Hamas and Hezbollah.
Authorities have been trying to stop cigarette smuggling operations for years, not only in an effort to recoup taxes, but also because there's growing evidence that the profits enable terrorist groups, according to law enforcement.