(NEW YORK) — Authorities in New York say they have broken up a cigarette trafficking ring that may have helped fund terrorism.
What authorities dubbed Operation Tobacco Road involved cigarettes bought in the South, where they’re less expensive, and sold tax-free in New York.
“Criminal rings like this have been used in the past to support terrorist groups and others in other parts of the world,” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said.
Two brothers from Maryland allegedly ran the Virginia-to-New York operation that moved 20,000 cartons per week.
One of the 16 men charged for selling $55 million worth of tax-free cigarettes smuggled up Interstate 95 is a known supporter of the blind sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, who is serving a life sentence in a 1993 terror plot.
“While it hasn’t been established yet where the illicit proceeds ended up, we’re concerned because similar schemes have been used in the past to help fund terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah,” said New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
Each of the defendants faces up to 25 years behind bars.
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John Newsome and Anne Woolsey, CNN