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“This is not the lifestyles of the rich and famous,” Schneiderman said. “We are very concerned about where the money went.”
Kelly said that Youssef Odeh, 52, of Staten Island, who is accused of being a distributor for the ring, received an investment for an illegal baby formula distribution business in the 1990s from Omar Abdel Rahman, often dubbed the “blind sheik,” who is imprisoned for helping plot the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
Muaffaq Askar, 46, of Brooklyn, who is accused of being one of the ring’s resellers, was a confidant of Rashid Baz, Kelly said. Baz, a Lebanese immigrant, is serving a 141-year prison sentence after being convicted in the 1994 shooting of Halberstam, a 16-year-old yeshiva student in Brooklyn, which Baz said was in retaliation for the killing of Muslim worshippers in the West Bank by a Jewish settler from Brooklyn.
Mohannad Seif, 39, of Brooklyn, another accused reseller, had been under police surveillance in part because he had lived in the same three-story Brooklyn building as a former secretary to Moussa Abu Marzouk, a deputy leader of Hamas.
Authorities said the ring was headed by two brothers, Basel Ramadan, 42, and Samir Ramadan, 40, both of Ocean City, Maryland, who ran a couple of local Subway restaurant franchises. Investigators said they found $1.4 million stashed in Basel Ramadan’s home, some of it stuffed in black plastic trash bags, and three handguns following his arrest on Thursday.
The ring bought cigarettes from a wholesaler in Virginia and kept them in a storage facility in Delaware, Schneiderman said.
A co-conspirator, Adel Abuzahrieh, 42, of Brooklyn, was accused of driving from New York to Delaware several times a week to exchange cash for cigarettes, and then return with the illicit goods for resale.
Two of the accused men are in the United States illegally, according to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. Others, including the Ramadan brothers, are naturalized citizens, while the rest are legal permanent residents.