U.S. Department of Justice
Peter F. Neronha
United States Attorney
District of Rhode Island
February 9, 2012
Syrian National Pleads Guilty to Importing and Selling Contraband Cigarettes in Rhode Island
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Mohamad Mohamad, 35, of Cambridge, Mass., a Syrian national, admitted in federal court in Providence, R.I., today to importing and selling millions of contraband cigarettes. The cigarettes lacked required Rhode Island tax stamps. It is estimated that the contraband cigarettes deprived Rhode Island of an estimated $506,000 in cigarette tax revenue.
Mohamad and three others were arrested in November 2011 as the result of a joint federal-state investigation in five states into the importation and sale of hundreds of thousands of packages of contraband cigarettes into Rhode Island.
Mohamad’s guilty plea was announced by Peter F. Neronha, U.S. Attorney for the District of Rhode Island; Colonel Steven G. O’Donnell, Superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police; Bruce M. Foucart, Special Agent in Charge of ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in New England; and Guy N. Thomas, Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Boston Field Office.
According to information and documents presented to the court, Mohamad traveled regularly to North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia to purchase large quantities of cigarettes from retailers and wholesalers for resale to convenience stores and independent salespersons in Rhode Island. None of the packages of cigarettes resold by Mohamad contained Rhode Island tax stamps. Mohamad is not licensed to sell cigarettes in Rhode Island.
Appearing before Chief U.S. District Court Judge Mary M. Lisi, Mohamad pled guilty to one count of knowingly, transporting, receiving, possessing, selling, and distributing in excess of 10,000 contraband cigarettes. Mohamad faces a sentence of up to 5 years in federal prison; a fine up of to $250,000; and up to 1 year of supervised release upon completion of imprisonment when he is sentenced by on April 27, 2012.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys William J. Ferland and Sandra R. Hebert. The remaining defendants in this matter are awaiting trial in Rhode Island state court.
HSI, ATF and Rhode Island State Police High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) agents were assisted in the investigation by various federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia; and by the Internal Revenue Service, Warwick Police, Massachusetts State Police and Cambridge, Mass., Police.
The R.I. State Police HIDTA is a federally funded task force comprised of members of law enforcement from the R.I. State Police, ATF, DEA, HSI, R.I. National Guard, and the Johnston, Pawtucket, Providence, and Smithfield Police Departments.