A Roanoke Rapids man is facing federal charges after an investigation implicated him in a federal conspiracy case.
Sobhi Sulieman Shehadeh, 55, is one of five named defendants in a federal case resulting in an indictment, accusing the defendants of conspiring to profit from the illegal trade in large quantities of cigarettes without paying applicable state taxes.
Shehadeh, according to the indictment, is an owner/operator of Sam’s Variety and Discount in Roanoke Rapids. He does not have a federal permit to purchase or sell “export only” cigarettes, which are not subject to U.S. or state excise taxes and have different nicotine levels and additives than those produced for the domestic market, according to the indictment. The indictment says he is also known as “Jacob” or “Sam.”
Nabil Nafiz Mustafa, 26, of Thomasville, Emad Hasan Tawiq Wshah, 39, and Mamoun Hasah Wshah, 40, both of Winterville, and Omar M. Nijim, of Brooklyn, N.Y., were also named in the indictment.
A press release from U.S. Attorney George E.B. Holding said the five individuals were arrested and appeared in court Thursday. The indictment was unsealed Monday.
Charges stem from an investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the North Carolina Division of Alcohol Law Enforcement and the Zebulon Police Department, an investigation which began in 2008, according to the release.
The indictment alleges Mustafa, Emad and Mamoun Wshah, and Shehadeh repeatedly took trucks from North Carolina businesses to predetermined places in South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia to buy large quantities of cigarettes “outside the normal flow of commerce.”
Each suspect carried large quantities of cash, according to the charges, to make these cigarette purchases, then would return to their places of business in North Carolina to distribute the cigarettes. Nijim traveled to New Jersey to pick up his illicit cigarettes from Mustafa, according to the indictment.
Gross proceeds from the conspiracy, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, are estimated to be at least $2,463,529.80.
Charges include conspiring to transport and receive cigarettes without the required tax stamp, which carries up to five years imprisonment, aiding and abetting transportation of stolen goods over $5,000 in value in interstate commerce, which carries up to 10 years imprisonment, and aiding and abetting the evasion of taxes by the purchase, possession and sale of “export only” cigarettes without federal taxes outside the United States, which carries a penalty of up to 5 years imprisonment.
The defendants have also been served forfeiture notices by the federal government, including an RBC bank account in the name of Sam’s Variety and Discount, and a 2005 Honda Pilot registered to Shehadeh.
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