Leader in Conspiracy to Distribute Over $6.6 Million in Contraband Cigarettes Sentenced to Prison
Also Distributed Oxycodone and Helped Fence Jewelry Stolen by a Relative
Baltimore, Maryland – U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz sentenced Elmar Rakhamimov, a/k/a “Eric Rakhamimov,” age 43, of Owings Mills, Maryland, to 18 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for conspiring to possess and distribute over $6.6 million in contraband cigarettes; and for trafficking and distributing oxycodone. Judge Motz imposed the sentence on May 20, 2016, and entered an order requiring Rakhamimov to pay restitution of $400,000.
The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Kevin Perkins of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office; Chief James W. Johnson of the Baltimore County Police Department; and Special Agent in Charge Nicholas DiGiulio, Office of Investigations, Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services.
According to his guilty plea, Elmar Rakhamimov was the leader and organizer of the contraband cigarettes scheme. Contraband cigarettes are cigarettes on which the applicable state taxes have not been paid. Elmar Rakhamimov coordinated with Ilgar Rakhamimov (no relation) and Artur Zakharyan to collect the money to purchase the contraband cigarettes, and to arrange for the storage and transportation of the contraband cigarettes to Brooklyn, New York. The Rakhamimovs and Zakharyan purchased contraband cigarettes on 18 occasions between December of 2011 and November of 2013 from an undercover FBI agent operating in the Baltimore County, Maryland area.
According to court documents and trial testimony, Artur Zakharyan recruited his son, Nikolay Zakharyan, to participate in the scheme. Nikolay Zakharyan assisted in the unloading, accounting, bagging, moving and loading of the master cases of contraband cigarettes. Other members of the conspiracy included Zarakh Yelizarov, Salim Yusufov, Adam Azerman, Shamil Novakhov, and Ruslan Ykiew.
The first transaction occurred on December 11, 2011, when Elmar Rakhamimov and Ilgar Rakhamimov purchased 20 master cases of contraband cigarettes in exchange for $18,000 in cash. After the first transaction, the contraband cigarettes were delivered to and stored at Elmar Rakhamimov’s home. Prior to each transaction, Elmar Rakhamimov, Ilgar Rakhamimov, and Artur Zakharyan discussed the transaction on the phone, and frequently met at Elmar Rakhamimov’s home to discuss the purchase and compile and count the money for the transaction.
The cigarettes were sold in quantities of 10,000 cigarettes or more, and bore no evidence of the payment of applicable state sales taxes. At the time of the indictment, the cigarette tax in Maryland was $2.00 per package of cigarettes ($20 per carton of cigarettes) and the cigarette tax in New York was $4.35 per package of cigarettes ($43.50 per carton of cigarettes). The total tax evaded over the course of the conspiracy was more than $2.5 million.
Following many of the deliveries, the conspirators met at Elmar Rakhamimov’s residence to discuss moving the cigarettes to Brooklyn, New York where the cigarettes were sold at a profit to individuals in New York, who further distributed the contraband cigarettes. The cigarettes were often transported from Maryland to New York by Adam Azerman, who delivered them to Shamil Novakhov, a relative of Ilgar Rakhamimov. Ilgar Rakhamimov brought Novakhov into the conspiracy, and was the primary contact with Novakov throughout the conspiracy. Novakhov’s nephew, Ruslan Ykiew, also would travel from New York to Maryland to obtain contraband cigarettes and transport them to his uncle in New York. Ykiew initially stored the cigarettes in a restaurant he owned. At Novakhov’s request, in 2012 Ykiew rented a warehouse for the storage of the contraband cigarettes. The conspirators paid $30 for each carton of contraband cigarettes, and sold them to buyers in New York for approximately $41 - $45 per carton.
Elmar Rakhamimov and his cousin, Zarakh Yelizarov, laundered the proceeds of the contraband cigarette sales through an international money laundering operation that wired funds from banks located in Latvia, Cyprus, Estonia, and New York, to a bank in Maryland, disguising the money as legitimate business payments for medical equipment or supplies. From December 27, 2012 through September 5, 2013, Yelizarov and Rakhamimov wired a total of $649,500 through 12 transactions.
Elmar Rakhamimov also distributed Oxycodone, prescription drugs, counterfeit prescription drugs and other drugs as partial payment for contraband cigarettes and in exchange for cash. He conducted 15 drug transactions for which he received $356,123.00 in cash. Additionally, on October 28, 2013, Rakhamimov sold 340 pills of Oxycodone and 1,000 pills of counterfeit Cialis to an individual who paid him $38,980 in cash. This cash amount represented payment of $30,980 for such drugs and for drugs provided in an earlier drug transaction, and an $8,000 money laundering fee relating to contraband cigarette transactions.
Finally, the government presented evidence to the court that Elmar Rakhamimov was involved in the fencing of stolen jewelry from a violent robbery orchestrated by his nephew, Stanislav “Steven” Yelizarov. After kidnapping a store employee, whose movements they had been monitoring, Yelizarov and his co-conspirators brandished firearms and forced the victim to provide the alarm codes for the jewelry store. Yelizarov and a co-conspirator stole jewelry worth approximately $500,000 from the store. The next day, Elmar Rakhamimov told a confidential informant (CI) that he had a million dollars of “hot” jewelry to sell, and set up a meeting for January 18 at Rakhamimov’s home. The CI met Rakhamimov and Yelizarov, who were wearing gloves and had the stolen jewelry. The CI bought a selection of the stolen jewelry for $29,000.
Zarakh Yelizarov, age 53, of Pikesville, Maryland was sentenced to 18 months in prison and ordered to pay restitution of $2.5 million; Ilgar Rakhamimov, age 41, also of Pikesville, was sentenced to a year and a day in prison and ordered to pay a $10,000 fine; Shamil Novakhov, age 60, of Brooklyn, New York, was sentenced to a year and a day in prison and ordered to pay restitution of $400,000; and Adam Azerman, age 61, Pikesville, was sentenced to time served and ordered to pay restitution of $912,780. Nikolay Zakharyan, age 25, of Owings Mills, Maryland, was convicted by a federal jury after a five day trial and was sentenced to a year and a day in prison, and ordered to pay restitution of $9,659,880.
Artur Zakharyan, age 54, of Reisterstown, Maryland, to one year of home detention, as part of four years’ probation and ordered to pay restitution of $2,500,000 and to forfeit $50,000 believed to be proceeds of the offense, $11,947, and a five troy ounce gold bars and a gold coin seized during searches.
Elmar Rakhamimov’s brother, Salim Yusufov, age 43, of Reisterstown, Maryland, was sentenced to 12 months home confinement as part of four years’ probation, for conspiracy to traffic over $6.6 million in contraband cigarettes, health care fraud, and receipt and delivery of misbranded drugs. Yusufov was also ordered to forfeit $200,000. Ruslan Ykiew, age 40, of Brooklyn, New York, was sentenced to two years’ probation.
Stanislav “Steven” Yelizarov, age 26, of Pikesville, Maryland, was sentenced on April 13, 2016 to 30 years in prison on charges arising from the robbery of a jewelry store, including a carjacking and kidnapping.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the FBI, Baltimore County Police Department, and Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services – Office of Investigations for their work in the investigation and the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit of the Maryland Attorney General’s Office for its assistance in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant United States Attorneys Paul E. Budlow and John W. Sippel, Jr., who prosecuted the case.