A federal grand jury has indicted 35 store owners on federal conspiracy charges for trafficking contraband cigarettes, distributing controlled substances and money laundering.
According to reports, the suspects conspired for more than 2 years to buy contraband cigarettes in St. Louis, a low tax market, while transporting and distributing them in Chicago, Illinois, and New Jersey, which are high tax markets.
The store owners are accused of using several convenience stores that they operated to create the appearance of legal cigarette purchases.
Illegal profits form the contraband cigarette sales were laundered through accounts associated with the stores.
Synethetic drugs, K-2, was sold every day from a handful of the convenience stores. Authorities said the store owners manufactured synthetic drugs themselves by importing chemicals from China.
“The collaboration with our federal and local law enforcement partners is the key to breaking criminal enterprises in this area,” said Special Agent in Charge James M. Gibbons of HSI Chicago.
“Synthetic drugs that are sold as purportedly legal substitutes for cannabis and stimulants, such as cocaine and methamphetamine, are neither legal nor safe,” said James P. Shroba, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA St. Louis Division. “These substances were never intended for human consumption and only serve to satisfy the avarice of the seller.”
If convicted, the defendants face a maximum of five to 20 years in prison and the possibility of a $1 million dollar fine.
This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Illinois State Police, Illinois Department of Revenue and Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
The list of defendants include:Mohammed Almuttan, aka Abu Ali, 35, St. Louis, MORami Almuttan, aka Abu Louay, 33, St. Louis, MOHisham Mutan, aka Abu Mohamed, 41, St. Louis, MOSaddam Mutan, aka Abu Ali, 24, St. Louis, MOMazin Abdelsalam, aka Abu Mohammad, 38, St. Louis, MONajeh Muhana, aka Abu Yazan, 41, Fairview, NJFares Muhana, aka Abu Yamama, 40, Cliffside Park, NJAyoub Qaiymah, aka Abu Faysal, 23, Richmond, VANaser Abid, 23, Chicago, ILYadgar Barzanji, aka Abu Siver, 47, St. Louis, MOWafaa Alwan, 50, St. Louis, MOAhmed Abuali, aka Bazilla, 31, North Bergen, NJMohammed Kayed, aka Mohammed Fayez, 21, Clifton, NJMomen Abuali, 20, Little Ferry, NJFirat Sevindik, 42, Cliffside Park, NJMohammed Mustafa, 30, North Bergen, NJMohammad Karashqah, Abu Yazid, 47, North Bergen, NJFayez Sheikha, 46, Mishawaka, INJihad Shihadeh, Abu Malik, 58, Chicago Ridge, ILIsmael Abadi, 57, Carol Stream, ILAbed Hamed, Abed Fawzan, 39, Greenville, NCMaher Hamed, Abu Alazara, 33, Swansea, ILAbdel Adi, 25, Oak Lawn, ILMuhanad Khatib, Abu Alamin, 36, Chicago, ILEyad Awad, 38, Chicago, ILDale Garbin, 60, Kankakee, ILHayder Al Fatli, 40, St. Louis, MOKutlay Guvener, 35, Chicago, ILSaad Al Mallak, 30, Dittmer, MOHassan Abdelatif, 29, Collinsville, ILMahajir Naz, 32, St. Louis, MOTalal Abuajaj, 23, St. Louis, MOBasem Hamdan, aka Abu Ramiz, 57, St. Louis, MOZainal Saleh, 29, St. Louis, MO andIbrahim Awad, 39, St. Louis, MO
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