Business Owners: Cigarette Smuggling Hurts Small Shops

From: WBOC 16  Delmarva’s News Leader

By Denise Sawyer

OCEAN CITY, Md.- Beth Hall, of Ocean City, helps out at the Smoke Ring in Ocean City. Smoke Ring is a beach-area tobacco shop that is owned and operated by locals. But Hall believes staying in business is tough.

“We’re actually trying to stay alive. You know we are trying to stay alive and in business. It’s very difficult.”

That’s because Hall believes “crooks” make it hard for “honest” businesses, like Smoke Ring, to make money.

“The ‘Ramadan brothers’ funneled more than $55 million in cash with approximately 20,000 cartons of cigarettes a week, all untaxed.”said New York City prosecutors at a press conference held last month. ”

Hall said hearing about this elaborate scheme makes her angry.

“When we see these things occurring we need to stand up,” said Hall.

State officials said smuggled cigarettes cost the state of Maryland about $650,000 in tax revenue.

Smugglers would purchase cigarettes in a low-tax state and sell them at a discount in a high-tax state, according to police.

According to court documents, Basel and Samir Ramadan, both of Ocean City, are accused of doing exactly that. In fact, the court documents go on to state thbat in the last year they sold $50 million worth of untaxed cigarettes.

“That is a lot of money that could be coming into the federal government that should be taxed,” said Hall.

When it comes to filling that budget gap, it all could boil down to you: the customer.

“These people are bringing cigarettes from out of state and making a fortune, it affects the individual,” said Hall.

If smuggling spikes, so could taxes, according to state lawmakers.

“About $8 is the price for a box of cigarettes, and most of it is tax,” said Hall.

As the Ramadan brothers appeared in court, Hall said she hoped she does not have to pay extra for something they may be guilty of having done.


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