Business Owner Pleads Guilty to Extortion Conspiracy
Members of the Conspiracy Paid an Undercover Agent $1,770,230
for More Than 17 Million Contraband Cigarettes
Greenbelt, Maryland - Amir Miljkovic, age 39, of Bowie, Maryland, owner of an auto glass store in College Park, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to interfere with commerce by extortion under color of official right, arising from a scheme involving the transport and distribution of untaxed alcohol and cigarettes.
The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Richard A. McFeely of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Acting Special Agent in Charge Jeannine A. Hammett of the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, Washington, D.C. Field Office.
According to his plea agreement, Miljkovic owned a business called Prestige Auto Glass in College Park, Maryland. In June 2009, Mijkovic began discussing with a source and an undercover agent working with the FBI the transport and sale of untaxed cigarettes across state lines. Miljkovic stated that he had an associate, a Prince George’s County police officer named “Richard” who, using his official police authority, could protect shipments of contraband cigarettes and the proceeds and monies that were to be transacted. Shortly thereafter, Miljkovic introduced former Prince George’s County police officer Richard Delabrer to the source and undercover agent.
By July 2009, Delabrer and Miljkovic began purchasing contraband cigarettes from the undercover agent and reselling them to co-conspirator Chun “Eddy” Chen, and others. Chen owned a carry-out store in Maryland. Chen and other conspirators sold the contraband cigarettes to individuals in New York, where local taxes on cigarettes are more than $8 per pack. According to his plea agreement, Delabrer assured the undercover agent that he would be armed to protect against robberies and was seen in possession of one or more guns during some of these transactions. Miljkovic accompanied Delabrer during these protection runs, and both were paid cash for their protection activities.
To obtain the contraband, Miljkovic and Delabrer traveled to Virginia to pick up a rented truck, which had been loaded with the cigarettes by the undercover agent, and drove the loads to a storage unit in Maryland obtained by a co-conspirator. During the conspiracy, Delabrer enlisted the assistance of Jose Moreno, a self-employed body shop mechanic in Northern Virginia, who drove the truck from Virginia to Maryland and assisted in unloading and storing the contraband.
The conspirators conducted at least 33 illicit transactions with the undercover agent and the source involving the sale of contraband cigarettes. Miljkovic were involved in each transaction. The first cigarette transaction on July 23, 2009 involved a shipment of 14 master cases, each containing at least 12,000 cigarettes. The largest shipment, on November 6, 2009, involved 160 master cases. Altogether, Miljkovic and his co-conspirators paid the undercover agent $1,770,230 for 1,420 master cases of contraband cigarettes, for a total of more than 17 million contraband cigarettes. The tax loss attributable to Miljkovic relating to the illegal cigarette trafficking is $2,820,120, based upon unpaid taxes of $1,704,000 owed to Maryland, $255,600 owed to Virginia, and $860,520 owed to the federal government.
Miljkovic faces a maximum penalty for the extortion conspiracy of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Miljkovic has also agreed to the entry of an order of forfeiture in the amount of $2,820,120. U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte scheduled sentencing for Miljkovic on October 14, 2011 at 9:30 a.m.
Conspirators Richard Delabrer, age 46, of Laurel, Maryland; Chun “Eddy” Chen, age 34, of Bowie, Maryland; and Jose Moreno, age 50, of Alexandria, Virginia, pleaded guilty to their participation in the extortion conspiracy. Each faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Delabrer also faces a mandatory minimum of five years, and up to life, for possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. Judge Messitte has scheduled sentencing for Moreno July 21, 2011, at 9:30 a.m. No sentencing date has been set for Delabrer or Chen.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the FBI and IRS for their work in these investigations. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant United States Attorneys James A. Crowell IV, A. David Copperthite and Sujit Raman, who are prosecuting the cases.
Mr. Rosenstein, Mr. McFeely and Ms. Hammett expressed their appreciation to Prince George's County Interim Chief Mark Magaw for the assistance that he and his department provided.