Police have uncovered a cigarette-smuggling operation whose proceeds may have gone to terrorist groups, they say. Sixteen Palestinians were indicted yesterday (and all but one arrested) in the East Coast effort, which saw some 1 million cartons of cigarettes trucked into the state from Virginia, where they were sold to distributors throughout NYC and Upstate, reports the Daily News. (Reuters reports the cigarettes ended up in grocery stores.) What it meant for the smugglers: at least $10 million in profit, per prosecutors. What it meant for the state: a lost $80 million in tax revenue, CNN reports.
Maryland man Basel Ramadan and his brother Samir allegedly led the scheme, in which a driver would bring thousands in cash from New York to Virginia, where he'd buy untaxed cigarette cartons and then drive them back to New York, avoiding the state's $4.35-per-pack tax (NYC charges another $1.50). NYPD chief Ray Kelly said the suspects have ties to well-known terrorists, including Omar Abdel-Rahman—the so-called "Blind Sheikh" who is in the midst of a life sentence for a New York City terror plot—and the NY AG says the suspects' simple lifestyle suggests they were funneling the cash elsewhere. The suspects each face up to 25 years in prison.