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Press Release

New York Man Admits Role in Scheme to Traffic in Millions of Dollars’ Worth of Contraband Cigarettes

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Jersey

NEWARK, N.J. – A New York man today admitted participating in a scheme to traffic in contraband cigarettes, Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig announced.

Obadah Saleh, 39, of Queens, New York, pleaded guilty by videoconference before U.S. District Judge Esther Salas to an information charging him with conspiracy to traffic in contraband cigarettes.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

Most states, including New Jersey, require a stamp to be placed on packs of cigarettes indicating the appropriate state tax has been paid. From October 2014 to October 2019, Saleh worked with conspirators to buy and sell millions of dollars’ worth of untaxed, contraband cigarettes, which they believed were stolen from large cigarette shipments from cigarette manufacturers. Saleh and his conspirators often made these purchases with large sums of cash. Saleh and his conspirators deprived the state of New Jersey of more than $594,000 in taxes as a result of this conspiracy. 

The charge to which Saleh pleaded guilty is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense, whichever is greatest. Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 2, 2021.

Acting U.S. Attorney Honig credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr. in Newark, with the investigation.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys James Donnelly and Joshua L. Haber of the Office’s Criminal Division in Newark.

Updated June 30, 2021

Press Release Number: 21-297