Prince George’s County Liquor Store Owners Plead Guilty to Conspiracy
Amrik Singh Melhi Agrees to Forfeit $975,327;
Ravinder Melhi Agrees to Pay a Fine of $25,000
Greenbelt, Maryland - Amrik Singh Melhi, age 51, 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. His wife, Ravinder Kaur Melhi, age 49, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy arising from a scheme to illegally access a protected Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration computer for commercial and personal gain.
The plea agreements were 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 Special Agent in Charge Rebecca Sparkman of the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, Washington, D.C. Field Office.
According to their plea agreements, Amrik and Ravinder Melhi, both of Clarksville, Maryland, owned and operated several businesses in Prince George’s County, including Tick Tock Liquors located in Hyattsville; Langways Liquors located in Lanham; and Decker’s Liquors located in Bel Air.
Amrik Melhi admits that he conspired with Prince George’s County Executive Jack Johnson, Prince George’s County Police officer Richard Delabrer and others to obstruct commerce by extortion. Specifically, Amrik Melhi agreed to pay Delabrer in return for official acts involving the transport and distribution of untaxed alcohol in Maryland and Virginia. Amrik also agreed to provide money, campaign donations and other things of value to Jack Johnson in exchange for official acts including obtaining licenses and permit inspections to conduct business in Prince George’s County, and influencing legislation favorable to Melhi’s liquor and restaurant businesses.
In June 2009, a co-conspirator began discussing with a source and an undercover agent working with the FBI, the transport and sale of untaxed cigarettes and alcohol across state lines. Shortly thereafter, the co-conspirator introduced Delabrer to the source and undercover agent as a police officer who could protect the shipments of contraband goods.
By July 2009, Delabrer began purchasing contraband alcohol from the undercover agent, which he sold to Amrik Melhi for distribution at Melhi’s liquor stores. Delabrer worked part-time for Amrik and Ravinder Melhi, providing security at Tick Tock Liquors. Delabrer initially served as a go-between, coordinating the sale of contraband liquor from the undercover agent to Amrik Melhi. Eventually, Delabrer introduced the undercover agent to Melhi, who began transacting the shipment of illicit goods directly with the undercover agent. Delabrer provided protection for the delivery of the contraband alcohol by following the vehicle transporting the liquor while possessing his police identification and police-issued firearm. Melhi always had Delabrer present for the contraband transactions. Amrik Melhi and others were involved in multiple sales of truckloads of contraband alcohol, and paid the undercover agent $116,505 in cash for the contraband alcohol they purchased.
According to Ravinder Melhi’s plea agreement, on May 14, 2010, she requested, and Amrik Melhi agreed, that Delabrer use his police authority to gain unauthorized access to the Maryland MVA database to locate a person who had passed a check without sufficient funds at one of their businesses. Delabrer had agreed on prior occasions to access the state database without authorization to provide information to the Melhis in order to locate persons who owed money to the Melhis and facilitate the collection of those debts.
Amrik Melhi faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and Ravinder Melhi faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Additionally, as part of his plea agreement, Amrik Melhi has agreed to the entry of an order of forfeiture in the amount of $975,327.32. Amrik Melhi remains detained until sentencing. As part of her plea agreement, Ravinder Melhi and the government agree to recommend to the Court that Ravinder Melhi pay a fine of $25,000. Judge Messitte scheduled sentencing for Amrik Melhi on September 12, 2011, at 9:30 a.m. and for Ravinder Melhi on October 11, 2011, at 9:30 a.m.
Former Prince George’s County Police officer Richard Delabrer, age 46, of Laurel, Maryland pleaded guilty on May 25, 2011, to conspiracy to interfere with commerce by extortion under color of official right, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. Delabrer faces a maximum sentence of 20 years for the extortion conspiracy; and a mandatory minimum of five years, and up to life, for the gun offense. Additionally, as part of his plea agreement, Delabrer has agreed to the entry of an order of forfeiture in the amount of $2,820,120. No sentencing date has been scheduled.
Jose Moreno, age 50, of Alexandria, Virginia, pleaded guilty on May 19, 2011 to his participation in the extortion conspiracy. Moreno drove truckloads of contraband cigarettes from Virginia to Maryland in return for money, and helped unload and store the contraband goods at pre-determined locations. Moreno faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine at his sentencing scheduled for July 21, 2011, at 9:30 a.m.
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 case.
Mr. Rosenstein, Mr. McFeely and Ms. Sparkman expressed their appreciation to Prince George's County Interim Chief Mark Magaw for the assistance that he and his department provided.