New Jersey Man Sentenced for Trafficking Contraband Cigarettes
RICHMOND, Va. – Eyad Salahedin, 40, of Elmwood Park, New Jersey, was sentenced yesterday to five years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for his role in a conspiracy to traffic in contraband cigarettes. Salahedin also was ordered to pay $5,622,021 in restitution and forfeit $9,611,319.11 in criminal proceeds.
Salahedin pleaded guilty on November 10, 2016. According to court documents, Salahedin created five separate, fictitious Virginia businesses between March and July 2015, using the name and personal identifiers of his absent brother (who had lived overseas in Jordan since 2007) to register those sole proprietorships with the Commonwealth’s Department of Taxation. Salahedin and his co-conspirators then used those fictitious business registrations to create business memberships at Sam’s Club stores in Virginia, where the conspirators purchased more than $9.6 million in cigarettes between March 2014 and August 2015, all exempted from the Virginia sales and use tax.
As part of the conspiracy, Salahedin created secondary business membership accounts for numerous Virginia and New Jersey residents, often utilizing false identities, and he provided those individuals with cash and instructions on what cigarettes to purchase. Salahedin and those acting at his direction then smuggled the cigarettes north to New Jersey and New York, where they were sold as contraband cigarettes on the black market. Salahedin regularly relied on aliases and other individuals’ identities throughout the conspiracy, using those false identities to register his false businesses, purchase cigarettes, and maintain storage units in Virginia and New Jersey.
Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; and Clark E. Settles, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Washington, D.C., made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Judge Robert E. Payne. The case was investigated by the Washington–Baltimore HIDTA task force’s Northern Virginia Financial Initiative and the New Jersey State Treasury’s Office of Criminal Investigations. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thomas A. Garnett and Michael C. Moore prosecuted the case.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 3:16-cr-29.