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USA: 31 individuals, most of whom Yemeni-Americans, charged in cigarette smuggling operation

By United States Department of Justice

United States Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina announced today that on June 19, 2019, a federal grand jury sitting in the Eastern District of North Carolina returned a sealed, eight-count indictment charging 31 individuals and one business entity with a scheme to defraud the federal government, the State of North Carolina, the State of New York and the Commonwealth of Virginia, of millions of dollars in tax revenues from the sale of cigarettes.

This investigation, entitled Operation Southern Lights, is an effort to end large scale tax fraud and to hold these defendants accountable for the millions in lost tax revenue as the result of their illegal scheme. The individuals charged are:

Justin Brent Freeman, 36
Malek Hamoud Alsaidi, 40
Ibrahim Ahmed Alsaidi, 43
Sadek Dahan Shahbain, 38
Ayed Yahya Ali Alsham, 37
Alshami Yahya Ali Alshami, 35
Mohamed Hafed Abdou, 39
Mohamed E Ould El Bechir, 43
Akram Ali Amer, 32
Mohamed Yeslem Ould Izid Bih, 40
Mohammed Saaid Darweesh, 30
El Hassen Hamadi, 42
Musheer Mohammed Hezam Al Naqeb, 21
Ali Mohammed Mashli Al Qadhi, 41
Mohamed Mounir, 39
Aied Awad Shibli, 50
Shibli Abu Issa Shibli, 51
Manar Mohammed Talal-Mustafa, 40
Mohammed Nael Mahmou Khalayfa, 28
Saleh Mohammed Abdeljawad, 39
Kaid Mohamed Addailam, 32
Amr Mousa Alhalemi, 22
Ahmed Khalayfa, 21
Rawhi Abdel Jabbar Khams Awad, 62
Ali Aied Shibli, 26
Amchad Rawhi Khamis Awad, 31
Wachdi Rawchi Khamis Awad, 33
Abdallahi Mohamed Elhafedh, 43
Ahmed Elhoussein, 54
Dedde Cheikh, 39
Arafat A. I. Abuhammoud, 34

It is alleged in the indictment that members of the conspiracy would repeatedly purchase large quantities of cigarettes from Justin Brent Freeman, age 37, of Hope Mills, North Carolina, through a business he operated named Freeco, Inc. in Fayetteville, North Carolina, as well as from other cigarette wholesalers in Fayetteville, Raleigh and Goldsboro, and then transport those qualities of cigarettes to storage locations for future shipment to New York City. After purchasing the cigarettes from Freeman and Freeco, Inc., or from one of the other retailers, members of the conspiracy would then prepare for transporting the cigarettes to the Northeast by using a full size van or rental truck and cross into the Commonwealth of Virginia and travel to either Richmond or Alexandria. In Virginia, the cigarettes would be transferred to another member of the conspiracy who would continue the transportation to Syracuse, New York. There, additional members of the conspiracy would transfer the cigarettes to an as yet unknown individual for transportation and distribution in the New York City area.

The charges and allegations contained in the Indictment are merely accusations. An Indictment is a formal written accusation originating with the United States Attorney and issued by a grand jury against a party charged with a crime. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

This case is being investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office, United States Marshals Service, Robseson County Sheriff’s Office, and the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office.

You can read the entire article here.

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