ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. (WNCN) — Two Rocky Mount men are among 21 who were arrested in a cigarette smuggling and money laundering case that spanned from Rocky Mount to New York City, the Rocky Mount Police Department said.
The investigation into the case began two years ago in Rocky Mount after detectives noticed a number of people began purchasing cigarettes in large quantities.
The two-year investigation led to New York City. On June 8, District Attorney for the Bronx, Darcel Clark, announced the indictment of 21 men in a huge cigarette smuggling scheme, police said.
Not only were the suspects smuggling cigarettes, according to police, they were also involved organized corruption, money laundering and tax evasion. The State of New York is now pursuing more than $20 million in illegal proceeds that have been uncovered during the investigation.
On June 8, Rocky Mount police arrested two of the suspects involved in the case. Officers served search warrants at two places in connection with the arrests and discovered evidence related to the smuggling operation, police said.
Omar Mohammad Naser, 22, and Shaher Bahjat Dari, 28, both of Rocky Mount, were arrested and charged with being a fugitive from New York due to their connection to the case.
Both men have been placed in the Nash County Jail and are awaiting extradition to New York.
One man from Raleigh, 39-year-old Nagib Mohamed Sharif Ali, and 32-year-old Abdul Wahed Salim, of Pikesville, were also arrested. The other men arrested were from New York, New Jersey and Virginia.
“Our department takes crimes like this very serious, while the smuggling of cigarettes may seem harmless to some, the related crimes associated with huge amounts of illegal proceeds breeds other forms of violent criminal activity,” said Rocky Mount Police Department Lt. Henry King. “The Rocky Mount Police Department takes pride in the reduction of organized crime and we will continue to combat criminal enterprises and all other crimes that take place in our city through improved partnerships with our community.”
Law enforcement agencies involved in the investigation included the North Carolina Department of Alcohol Law Enforcement, Nash County Sheriff’s Office, the New Jersey State Police, the New York City Police Department with its Cigarette Strike Force, and the Department of Homeland Security.
Nearly 10,000 cartons of cigarettes were sezied, District Attorney Clark said in a press release. The tax fraud is $20 million and the cigarettes were sold in stores across New York City.
Clark said they will be pursuing nearly $17 million in illegal cigarette profits from the 21 defendants.