ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. (WNCT/WNCN) — Two Rocky Mount men have been indicted in a massive cigarette smuggling scheme in which hundreds and thousands of cartons of cigarettes were bought in Virginia and North Carolina and trafficked to New York City, according to the Bronx County District Attorney’s Office.
Omar Naser, 22, and Shaher Dari, 28, two of 21 people indicted in the scheme, 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.”
According to the District Attorney’s Office, defendants purchased about 5,000 cartons of cigarettes a week in North Carolina and Virginia for about $50 per carton ($5 per pack) and drove them to the Bronx. A carton retails for about $130 in New York City.
The defendants sold them to distributors who then sold them to bodegas and delis, where a pack of cigarettes sold for about $8 a pack, instead of $13, officials said.
The District Attorney’s Office said it allowed them to evade more than $20 million in taxes and reap millions in proceeds.
If convicted of the top count of the indictments, most of the defendants face 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison, according to the Bronx County District Attorney’s Office.
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.