Accused cigarette smugglers tied to restaurants, liquor
OCEAN CITY — Basel Ramadan, the man accused of masterminding a multi-million-dollar cigarette smuggling ring from Virginia to New York, still owes millions in unpaid liens, according to state judicial and tax records.
Basel, 42, and his brother, Samir Ramadan, 39, were arrested May 15 after a raid of their home in West Ocean City, their office in Ocean City and a storage warehouse in Dagsboro, Del. Authorities indicted the brothers and 14 other co-conspirators in what police call an untaxed cigarette distribution enterprise.
Police in New York also say they’re concerned some unaccounted-for profits may have been funneled to pro-Palestinian terrorist organizations such as Hamas.
New York authorities picked up the brothers May 22 from the Worcester County Jail. According to the New York Attorney General’s office, both pleaded not guilty May 23 before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice William Miller. They were remanded to the custody of the New York City Department of Corrections. Their defense attorney asked that their next court appearance for bail arguments be delayed until June 4.
In a check of business licenses with the town of Ocean City, Samir and Basel Ramadan are connected to several by name.
Samir Ramadan is the Ocean City business licensee for a Subway at 127th Street, Village Market at 18th Street and 9th Street Market. Basel Ramadan is the business licensee for a Subway at 17th Street.
Several corporate entities are attached to the Ramadans or properties they own. Those include SBIH Inc., 3 In 1 Pizza Inc., BSM Ocean City Properties LLC, Monya Inc., Salah’s Enterprises Inc., Just Beginning OC Inc., and 56th Street Chevron Inc.
Several of these state licenses currently are forfeited, according to online tax records. Forfeited means the legal existence of the entity has been relinquished, and it’s usually the result of failing to make required annual filings for prior years, according to the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation.
One company called Atlantic Ice Cream Inc. is connected to the Village Market address under a Mohamad Ramadan. Another called Sasha Management Group Inc. has Samer Ramadan as its resident agent.
Many of these corporations are named as garnishees in a 2008 lawsuit filed in Worcester County Circuit Court against Basel Ramadan. The case was closed in 2010 for lack of prosecution, but it levied a judgment of $346,236 against Basel Ramadan by plaintiffs Ali Tekmen and Nuriye Tekmen of Rehoboth Beach.
For now, there are at least $2.4 million in outstanding liens against Basel Ramadan and his wife, Shireen Ramadan, which includes some businesses in their names, according to online records. Online court records show Basel Ramadan has had 24 liens issued against him since 1998 in Maryland, three of which were paid. No liens against Samir Ramadan appear in online court records.
Shireen Ramadan is the property owner of record for a three-story building at 270 Philadelphia Ave., which has a Subway on the first floor. Police raided that property May 15, calling it the office space of Basel Ramadan. They seized a handgun found there. They also found a handgun in Basel Ramadan’s home, plus another in his car.
Some of the men’s outstanding liens are against businesses in their names. One of the corporations with a history of liens is called SBIH Inc. Formed in 1994, SBIH lost its state license for nonpayment of $115,556 in taxes, but the lien was lifted when the debt was paid in full.
SBIH’s state business license from 2006 is signed by Samir Ramadan, with an Ocean City address at 4 Ninth St. Today, that property is a beer and wine store that goes by 9th Street Market.
Property records show this site is owned by a corporation called San Rocco, the resident agent of which is Carlo DiFilippo. His given address on state business records is 10310 Longview Court in the West Ocean City neighborhood of Oyster Harbor.
When reached by telephone at that property and asked about his connection, a man who identified himself as Carlo DiFilippo and spoke limited English said he did not know the Ramadans.
“I’m not familiar with them,” he said.
The home of Carlo DiFilippo is located two lots away from 10316 Longview Court, which belongs to Samir Ramadan, according to property records.
Another business called “3 In 1 Pizza” has an active business license with the town of Ocean City for Ledo’s Pizza at 127th Street, the license holder there named as Lubra Ramadan. A spokeswoman for the town of Ocean City said that license is current, though state tax records indicate that “3 In 1 Pizza” has a forfeited business license.
The building that houses Ledo and Subway at 12701 Coastal Highway is owned by Sylvia and Jerry Mermel under the auspices of Sivan Properties. When reached by telephone, Sylvia Mermel declined to comment.
“I don’t have anything to do with the guy,” she said.
The company BSM Ocean City Properties LLC has a business address of 1816 Philadelphia Ave. That’s the Village Market retail center, located on the corner of 18th Street and Coastal Highway.
The Village Market is also home to a Worcester County-run Liquor Mart.
“We want to be out of that shopping center,” said Bobby Cowger, head of the county’s Department of Liquor Control, in an interview about the Ramadans. “We don’t want anything to do with that.”
Moving won’t be easy, Cowger said, because it’s one of the county’s largest and busiest liquor stores.
“It would be almost impossible to move out at the start of the summer season. By the end of the summer, we’d be looking to move out. If it stays in that corporation, we would definitely be looking to move it out,” he said.
Cowger also confirmed that the Ramadans run a beer and wine store at the Gold Coast Mall, right beside another county Liquor Mart, though the property is still owned by the mall.
Basel Ramadan also has an outstanding lien in Sussex County, Del., where in a 2007 contract dispute, a judge entered a judgment of $98,376 against Salah’s Enterprises on behalf of Peninsula Oil. In that court filing, which is available online, Basel Ramadan is identified as Sal Ramadan.
Property and business records link many of these businesses to Post Office Box 3386 in Ocean City. Ocean City Postmaster Valerie Archibald said law enforcement had not reached out regarding the box. Even if they had, she couldn’t talk about it, she said.