(June 7, 2013) Ocean City businessman Mike Ramadan’s life has been in turmoil since his two brothers were arrested May 15 and charged in connection with a cigarette smuggling ring.
Because he is their sibling, some people and at least two newspapers, but not Ocean City Today, have made it appear he was involved somehow by naming his businesses and his office.
“I’ve been staying out of my stores to avoid confrontations,” Mike Ramadan said Monday in the office of his attorney, Mark Cropper. “It’s really playing havoc with my life.”
The newspapers that published names of his businesses and the location of his office in articles about his brothers, Basel and Samir Ramadan, “were literally directing people to come. Literally telling people where to come and “let’s do damage,’ “ he said.
The articles in those newspapers lumped the names of Mike Ramadan’s businesses in with those in which his brothers are affiliated, but he says there is no connection between his businesses and theirs. By naming his businesses, the articles made it seem as though he was somehow involved.
“He’s being found guilty by association,” Cropper said.
A friend of one of Mike Ramadan’s employees overheard someone say to his customers, “Get out of there. Don’t support these terrorists!”
Because of such comments, Mike Ramadan has concerns other than financial and his personal safety.
“I fear it’s a safety concern for my employees,” he said.
“Of the Ramadan family members, only two are implicated in and charged with any crime in the alleged cigarette smuggling operation,” Cropper said. “Mike is being severely damaged by inaccuracies of these articles lumping him in with these businesses.
“Even some vendors are very reluctant to do business with Mike Ramadan due to erroneous statements made or inferred in various newspaper articles regarding Samir and Basel Ramadan,” Cropper said.
Samir and Basel Ramadan were arrested during a raid on their West Ocean City residences by Homeland Security officers and investigators from New York.
Basel is accused of being the ringleader of a 16-member group allegedly involved in cigarette smuggling. The group is believed to have spent as much as $55 million buying cigarettes, while keeping $10 million in profit. Approximately $1.4 million was found in black trash bags at Basel Ramadan’s house during the raid.
According to the 303-page indictment released by New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, the scheme involved the purchase of cartons of cigarettes from a wholesaler in Virginia, ostensibly to sell them at Virginia businesses. That allowed them to purchase the cigarettes at a tax rate of 30 cents per pack. The cigarettes would then be take to storage facilities in Delaware, including one in Dagsboro.
From Delaware, the cigarettes would be driven to New Jersey where men identified in the indictment as distributors would take them to storage facilities in New York. There, men identified in the indictment as resellers would take them to various Arab markets and grocery stores in New York City and elsewhere in the state to be sold for large profits.
According to Schneiderman’s office, the year-long investigation revealed the smuggling ring laundered more than $55 million in illegal proceeds and dodged at least $80 million in New York taxes. The investigation into whether illegal proceeds were funneled to terrorist organizations such as Hamas is continuing.
At Samir Ramadan’s bail review on Tuesday, he was ordered held on $15 million bail. Basel’s Ramadan’s bail, which had also been scheduled for Tuesday, review was postponed.
Of all of the suspects, only Basel and Samir Ramadan are United States citizens. The Ramadan family has been in this country for five generations. Mike Ramadan, 31, attended Ocean City Elementary School and Berlin Middle School and he graduated from Stephen Decatur High School. He earned a degree in business management at Salisbury University.