FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
MONDAY - February 28, 2011
FIVE ARRESTED AND CHARGED IN MILLION DOLLAR CIGARETTE SCHEME
RALEIGH - United States Attorney George E. B. Holding announced that a Federal Grand Jury returned a 40-count Criminal Indictment charging five individuals in a conspiracy to profit from the illegal trade in large quantities of cigarettes without payment of applicable state taxes. The Indictment was unsealed following their arrests and initial appearances in court on February 24, 2011.
The individuals charged include:
NABIL NAFIZ, MUSTAFA, 26, of Thomasville, North Carolina;
EMAD HASAN TAWIQ WSHAH, 39, of Winterville, North Carolina;
MAMOUN HASAH WSHAH, 40, of Winterville, North Carolina;
SOBHI SULIEMAN SHEHADEH, 55, of Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina; and
OMAR M. NIJIM, 24, of Brooklyn, New York.
Charges included conspiring to transport, receive cigarettes in quantities exceeding 10,000 without the requisite tax stamp, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371, which carries a penalty of up to five years’ imprisonment; aiding and abetting transportation of stolen goods of a value of more than $5,000 in interstate commerce, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 2314, and 21, which carries a penalty of up 10 years’ imprisonment; and aiding and abetting the evasion of taxes by the purchase, possession and sale of “export only” cigarettes without federal taxes outside the United States, in violation of Title 26, United States Code, Sections 5762(3) and 5751(a)(1)(A), which carries a penalty of up to five years’ imprisonment.
According to the Indictment, beginning in 2008, through 2011, MUSTAFA, EMAD AND MAMOUN WSHAH and SHEHADEH repeatedly traveled by trucks, usually Penske or Ryder, from North Carolina businesses for the purpose of purchasing large quantities of cigarettes outside the normal flow of commerce. The defendants would arrive at a pre-determined time and place in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia carrying large quantities of cash to complete the purchases of cigarettes and then promptly return to distribute the cigarettes. NIJIM would travel to meet MUSTAFA in New Jersey to obtain the diverted, stolen or “export only” cigarettes for distribution up north. Profits were re-invested in the scheme to purchase additional cigarettes. The gross proceeds from the defendants’ illegal activities is estimated to be at least $2,463,529.80.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
Investigation of this case was conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the North Carolina Division of Alcohol Law Enforcement; and the Zebulon Police Department.
News releases are available on the U. S. Attorney’s web page at www.usdoj.gov/usao/nce within 48 hours of release.