NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Some of the suspects charged in a Virginia-to-New York cigarette smuggling scheme have links to top Hamas officials, authorities said.
New York law enforcers outlined the alleged terror links Thursday while announcing that 16 people of Palestinian descent are charged in the smuggling case.
The smuggling operation encompassed four states and the suspects allegedly flooded the New York market with more than 1 million cartons of untaxed cigarettes, 1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa reported.
New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said the laundered cash was transported in garbage bags to the alleged ring leader, Papa reported.
“We recovered more than $1.4 million that was hidden in his home and car,” Schneiderman said.
Investigators are still trying to determine where illicit proceeds ended up.
“They didn’t use it to live extravagant lifestyles. this was not lifestyles of the rich and famous. we are very concerned about where the money went and we are still investigating that,” Schneiderman said.
Authorities said that in the past, similar schemes have helped fund terrorist organizations.
“Hamas and Hezbollah are not low-rent groups, they require the massive movement of a lot of money through the international financial system,” Schneiderman said.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the investigation started “because we were being vigilant about terrorism.”
Kelly said some of the distributors had terrorist ties “to Ari Halberstam’s killer, to the ‘Blind Sheik’ and to a top Hamas official.”
Halberstam was the Hasidic Jewish teen fatally shot on the Brooklyn Bridge in 1994 in what was determined to be an act of terror.
Two of the smuggling defendants are being held without bond at the Worcester County Jail in Snow Hill, Md.
Maryland court records show they were arrested Wednesday.
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