Attorney General Barbara Underwood announced the indictment of 17 people for their alleged involvement in the cigarette trafficking ring, which operated on Long Island, Queens, the Bronx and Westchester. The scam also stretched south to New Jersey, Virginia and North Carolina.
The network allegedly trafficked more than 18 million cigarettes from low tax states to New York. In total, it is alleged that the 17 suspects evaded more than $3 million in tax liability through the scheme.
The investigation was dubbed “Operation Big Wheels,” because investigators identified several Ford pickup trucks that had been after-market-modified, allegedly utilized by the defendants to transport the cartons of cigarettes across state lines. Wiretaps intercepted them discussing their transactions in codes in an attempt to evade arrest.
The 242-count indictment charges all 17 with enterprise corruption, criminal tax fraud and money laundering, all felonies. If convicted, they will face a term of between one and 25 years in state prison. Each was also charged with counts of possession or transport for the purpose of sale of 30,000 or more unstamped cigarettes, and with conspiracy.
Underwood noted that the ringleader, Mohammed Alsaidi, is facing 165 separate charges. Among his co-conspirators charged include:
- Alaa Alsaidi, 24, of Yonkers;
- Basam Hussain, 24, of Brooklyn;
- Yaheya Ghaleb, 40, of Queens;
- Wail Asseadi, 27, of Queens;
- Talal Alsaedi, 24, of Bronx;
- Yahia Mahases, 35, of Richmond, Va.;
- Fattoh Ghaleb, 31, of Richmond, Va.;
- Ali Fadel, 43, of Winston-Salem, N.C.;
- Mujahid Shawter, 35, of Winston-Salem, N.C.;
- Wail Al-Shaabi, 44, of Bronx;
- Bakil Adlehelfri, 38, of Queens;
- Ahmed Alsayedi, 43, of Baldwin;
- Mohamed Elgazali, 50, of Bronx;
- Naser Alsaidi, 41, of Queens;
- Adnan Alsayedi, 41, of Queens;
- Tawfiq Aziz, 43, of Queens;
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